Dolton dominates Thornton Township Annual Meeting

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Harvey resident Ruby Donahue stands alone in asking for accountability, transparency in government

by Melanie Jongsma

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 17, 2022) – The Village of Dolton was well represented at the Thornton Township annual meeting on Tuesday, April 12. Dolton is one of 17 municipalities within Thornton Township, but more than half of the evening’s interactions were conducted by people from Dolton, the village where Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard is also mayor. Participants lined up to make motions and second them, and to enter public comments into the record. Of the 33 interactions that were part of the meeting, 18 were made by Dolton residents.

Public notice

The Lansing Journal called on April 12 to confirm the meeting time and ask if an agenda had been posted online. The Clerk’s office said the agenda was not on the website, but that a copy had been taped to the door at Thornton Township headquarters.

Dolton
An agenda for the April 12, 2022, Annual Meeting of Thornton Township was taped to the east entrance of Thornton Township headquarters. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The meeting was included as a calendar item on the Events page at thorntontownship.com.

The Events page of the Thornton Township website can be reached from the menu on the home page. If you know the date of an upcoming event, you can click on that date to see a list of events on that date. Clicking on an individual event reveals information such as time and location. (Screenshot from http://www.thorntontownship.com/upcoming-events/, taken 04/15/22)

Thornton Township residents who signed in at the meeting did not receive a copy of the agenda. They did receive a photocopied page of relevant items from the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) regarding Township governance along with a pink Elector card giving them the right to vote during the proceedings.

Residents received this page of items describing their role in Township governance. ILCS stands for Illinois Compiled Statutes, and Chapter 60 is about Townships. The various article numbers reference the specific portions of the statutes cited. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A post dated 2022/04/11 on the Thornton Township blog does provide a PDF of the agenda: thorntontownship.com/2022/04/11/public-notice/. As of this writing, there does not seem to be a direct link to the blog from the main menu, but by entering “meeting” in the search field, a visitor to the site can find the annual meeting agenda among the results, listed as “Public Notice for 4.12.22, Blog Post.”

After calling the meeting to order and leading the Pledge of Allegiance, Township Clerk Loretta Wells (Phoenix) provided an Announcement of Legal Publications where notice of the annual meeting had appeared. Wells listed, “The Thornton Township South Holland building — on each door — Thornton Township Riverdale building, Thornton Township Calumet City building, Thornton Township ZAP building, the Illinois Times newspaper, and the Sun-Times newspaper.” The Illinois Times is based in Springfield, Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times is based in Chicago, Illinois.

Moderation

Clerk Wells then opened the floor to receive nominations for “Election of Moderator to conduct the meeting.” Eddie Wiggins (Dolton) promptly nominated Stan Brown (Dolton) to serve as Moderator. Brown currently leads the ZAP (Zuccarelli Assistance Program) lawn care assistance for Thornton Township seniors. Kevin Boens (Dolton) seconded the motion. Wells asked for the Electors to vote by raising their pink cards, and Brown was voted into the position. “He will receive a stipend of $300,” Wells said before swearing him in.

Dolton
Thornton Township Clerk Loretta Wells (left) swears in Stan Brown as moderator of the annual meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Financial reports

Trustee Joyce Washington (Dolton) then repeated the motion to nominate Stan Brown as moderator. After it was explained to her that Brown had already been sworn in, Washington’s motion was applied to accepting the minutes from the 2021 annual meeting. Donkor Parker (South Holland) seconded the motion.

Finance Director Robert Hunt (Homewood) read a report from the recently closed Fiscal Year for the General Assistance Fund, detailing the balance of $1,743,695.14 in a checking account and $2,216,448.59 in investments. Paper copies of the reports were not provided, but Hunt read the numbers line by line. Elizabeth Gonzalez (Dolton) then made a motion to accept the report as read. Parker seconded, and residents voted by raising their pink Elector sheets.

Hunt then read the report for the General Fund, detailing the following balances:

  • $160.50 in a fresh deposit account*
  • $29,368.87 in a flexible spending checking account
  • $2,108,008.99 in a general fund checking account
  • $117.97 in general fund checking account #2
  • $100 in a payment center account
  • $1,581.76* in another checking account
  • $6,480,353.09 in investments

*Reporter’s note: I am not completely sure I heard Hunt correctly in these two instances.

Parker was at the ready to make a motion to accept the report, Boens seconded, and Electors voted their acceptance.

Hunt then read the report for the Road and Bridge Fund, detailing the balance of $596,293.20 in a checking account and $893,498.44 in investments. Boens made a motion to accept, Linda Walker (Dolton) seconded, and Electors voted their acceptance of the report.

Finance Director Robert Hunt (standing, center) read the financial reports line by line to approximately 200 Thornton Township residents gathered in the basement meeting room. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Dolton
Residents raised their pink Elector cards to indicate their votes. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Next annual meeting date

Moderator Brown then asked for a motion to schedule the next Thornton Township Annual Meeting for Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at 6 p.m. Boens so moved, Joanie Conley (Dolton) seconded, and the date was approved by the Electors.

Comments from elected officials

Brown then moderated the public comment section of the meeting, allowing elected officials to make statements ahead of the members of the public who had begun lining up at the podium.

Trustee Washington thanked Brown for “doing a great job,” and then assured the Supervisor, “Tiffany Henyard we gonna support you just as much as we supported our past Supervisor.”

Trustee Jerry Jones (South Holland) informed the public that he and Trustee Washington are co-sponsoring the renaming of the Thornton Township building in Zuccarelli’s honor, but first he confirmed his support of Supervisor Henyard. “We have a lot of appreciation for you and the role you’ve taken with this township,” he said. “Big footsteps. And we’re going to continue with you to make sure you’re able to fulfill those obligations.”

Trustees Washington (left) and Jones are co-sponsoring the renaming of the Thornton Township building in Frank Zuccarelli’s honor. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Highway Commissioner Geary DePue (Calumet City) congratulated Henyard on her new position as Supervisor. “I look forward to working with you for the next three years with our Board,” he said. “If we work together, we’ll get things done.”

Clerk Wells also congratulated Supervisor Henyard: “I want to let her know that I am proud of her, and we are here for her, to help her succeed — because if she doesn’t succeed, we don’t succeed.”

Supervisor Henyard (Dolton) responded by expressing thanks for everyone’s support. “I vow that I will not let you guys down,” she said. “A lot of you guys watch a lot of things in the news and in the media, but y’all know better than that. Y’all know who Tiffany Henyard is. I may not do things the way the normal people does, but I put my own little twist to it. But those that truly, truly know me know that I’m gonna show up and show out for the residents of Thornton Township. I guarantee it. So thank you.”

Comments from the public

Ruby Donahue (Harvey) was the first member of the public to make a comment. She read a statement she had prepared listing a number of issues that fellow Thornton Township residents “have been curious about.”

“They want information,” Donahue explained. “Some of it might seem a little bit negative, but you can take it like you want to, and you can also ask me questions afterwards.”

Ruby Donahue (left) addressed the Board with a statement she had prepared listing issues that fellow Thornton Township residents “have been curious about.” (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Donahue’s prepared statement described the “sense of chaos” in Thornton Township since Zuccarelli’s death, and noted the “envy,” “greed,” “jealousy,” and “self-interest” that she says have marked the actions of Thornton Township’s governing bodies in the four months since. She urged the Board to respond before the end of the meeting to the concerns expressed by “many residents” regarding the transition of leadership.

“The citizens of our 17 municipalities deserve concrete explanations,” said Donahue, listing the following concerns:

  • Administration relocations
  • Hiring and firing personnel
  • Rapid removal of Supervisor Zuccarelli’s memorabilia and insignias — “It was quite noticeable,” said Donahue, mentioning that she has received calls about it from people in all township municipalities.

“Lastly but not least,” Donahue continued, “to the governing body and leadership, please remember: The township is not ‘Party-ville.’ It’s not ‘Toyland.’ And each municipality is a separate entity. The township is only the umbrella for 17 municipalities. …Dolton is not a township. Dolton is part of the umbrella of Thornton Township. So anything that has to be done with Dolton stays with Dolton and is taken care of in Dolton. …There should never be a commingling of funds and liabilities. Accountability and transparency are essential — and that’s for each municipality, not just the township.”

Keith Price (Harvey) took the podium to respond. “I didn’t hear all these questions when Mr. Zuccarelli was living,” he chided Donahue. “You weren’t questioning accounts. You weren’t questioning things.”

“Didn’t have to,” remarked Donahue from her seat.

Price continued, “We must give Miss Henyard a chance. I’m looking forward to helping her. I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given.” Price had been appointed Manager of the Food Pantry prior to the annual meeting.

Additional comments from the public

Annie P. Mack (Harvey), commonly known as Miss Pearl, took the podium and requested that the board install a statue of Frank on the grounds of the South Holland building. Toward the end of the meeting Henyard assured Mack that this was already in process.

Boens returned to the podium and introduced himself this time as Commissioner Kevin Boens — he serves on the Board of Commissioners for the Dolton Park District. He congratulated Henyard and encouraged her to follow her vision and “just tune the noise out.”

Julie Pierce (Dolton) works for State Representative Thaddeus Jones (who is also Mayor of Calumet City). She spoke on behalf of constituents who had called to ask about township services at the Riverdale location.

Marcia Brown (Dolton), assistant manager of Senior Services and wife of Moderator Brown, answered Pierce’s questions and informed her that Riverdale services and activities would resume by Tuesday, April 19.

Valencia Ross (Calumet City) said she wanted to go on record as one who is looking forward to working with Supervisor Henyard.

Tony Sherman (South Holland) urged residents that unity and supporting one another are what is most important.

Moderator Brown reminded the public that a regular Thornton Township Board meeting was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., and he began bringing comments to a close, but he first allowed Nate Fields (South Holland) to speak. “Come on, Nate. Come on,” motioned Brown. “Let’s get Nate in there.”

Fields took the podium a few minutes after 7 p.m. and shared some personal reflections about January 3rd, the day Zuccarelli passed. “I called a few people,” he said. “But somebody showed up that I didn’t call — and that was Tiffany. Tiffany came in all black — she was ready! I’m like, I looked at my phone, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t even text her! I didn’t call her. How did she know?’ It was like she was ready for this spot. How did she find out? I don’t know.”

As Fields left the podium, Moderator Brown noted, “Nate, I was the one that called her.”

Supervisor comments

Brown then asked Supervisor Henyard if she would like to say a few words.

“Residents, we hear everything that you say,” said Henyard. “[It] might not come right away, but we are working on it together. So you will see great things to come, from myself and the Board of Trustees. So thank you for your support.”

Adjournment and next meetings

Brown called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Price so moved, Pierce seconded, and voters raised their cards to adjourn the Thornton Township Annual Meeting at 7:11 p.m.

The regular meeting of the Thornton Township Board convened upstairs in the Board room around 7:36 p.m., and the meeting was livestreamed to the basement meeting room.

Thornton Township is located at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland, Illinois. Township Board meetings typically take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

Thornton Township is located at 333 E. 162nd Street, South Holland, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

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