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Residents voice praises and concerns at Thornton Township Annual Meeting

Henyard accuses media of ‘defamation of character’

Above: Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard holds up an elector sign during the Thornton Township Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 13, 2023) – Thornton Township held its Annual Township Meeting on Tuesday, April 11. Residents within the township were invited to participate in the meeting, and roughly 100 people filled the basement of Thornton Township’s South Holland headquarters for the annual gathering.

Public participation and protocol

Thornton Township residents shared their address for verification, and received a copy of the agenda for the evening and a pink Elector card to be used for voting during the meeting.

Thornton Township Annual Meeting
Thornton Township residents received “Elector” cards which were used to vote throughout the Thornton Township Annual Meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

After the call to order and the Pledge of Allegiance, protocol was established limiting active participation in the meeting to registered voters residing in Thornton Township. Residents had the right to make and second motions. When a vote was presented, residents raised their cards voting in favor or against the motion.

When residents approached the podium, they were required to share their name and address to verify they were residents of the township.

Election of moderator

Next, the election of the moderator took place. Michael Smith (Riverdale) nominated Stan Brown, and Demarkus Criggley (Dolton) seconded the motion. Stan Brown leads HAP (Henyard Assistance Program), which is a continuation of ZAP (Zuccarelli Assistance Program). Brown is also a trustee-elect for the Dolton Village Board.

Trustee Joyce Washington (Dolton) nominated Ruby Donahue (Harvey) to moderate the Thornton Township Annual Meetin. Stephanie Wiedeman (Thornton) seconded. Donahue is a long-serving member of the Human Relations Commission of Thornton Township.

Residents ultimately voted for Brown as the moderator. After administering the Moderator’s Oath, Clerk Wells said Brown would receive $300 for his service.

Thornton Township Annual Meeting
Roughly 100 people were present for the meeting Tuesday night. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Finance reports

Director of Finance Robert Hunt (Homewood) shared the reports from the General Assistance Fund, General Fund, and Road and Bridge Fund. Hunt read each report line by line.

Following the reports, a few residents recommended having a printout or display of the report to allow meeting attendees to follow along.

Township Finance Director Robert Hunt read financial reports line by line. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

“Financial crisis” questions

Meghan Dudek (Lansing) is a former Township employee who worked as a counselor. She approached the lectern with a question about the township’s finances.

Before she asked her question, Dudek was asked to share her full address. “I don’t have to give a full address,” she replied. Township attorney Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski responded that at the Thornton Township Annual Meeting address verification is needed to verify Electors. Dudek refused again but eventually relented and shared her full address with Moderator Brown.

Dudek asked why the financial numbers didn’t seem to show a “financial crisis.” She claimed the Township had claimed that financial crisis made it necessary to reduce the free mental health services the Township had been providing for many years.

“There were losses from the last two to three years in a row with our audited financial statements. This is the first year where we actually had a surplus in a couple of years,” Hunt said, in part, in response to Dudek’s questions.

Loan and debt questions

Later in the meeting, Thornton Township Trustee Chris Gonzalez (Calumet City) questioned if a $5 million loan was considered a liability when reaching the conclusion that the township has a current budget surplus.

“We took out a loan four years ago under the previous administration, so there are loan payments right now. But that was for the previous $5 million that we borrowed before. We renewed the $5 million again, so the payments for the new loan will be this upcoming year,” said Hunt.

“Ok so that $5 million isn’t accounted for as a liability,” Gonzales said. “I guess I’m just trying to clear up — we’re saying we have a surplus, but we still owe $5 million.”

“In the upcoming budget, we show the payments and we’ve budgeted to pay off that,” Hunt said.

Message to the media

Henyard urged participants in the audience, but especially media, to focus on the positive in the Township.

After praising a recent Township food giveaway, Henyard said, “[Those are] the things that I wish y’all would come more to, to support instead of just the things people put in your ear without you getting the facts. And to the media once again, I hope y’all write all the good that we talked about today and not all the negative that you hear. People ain’t even got the facts. People can just make things up, but come check it out for yourself before you write about it. That’s like character assassination, defamation of character. There are things that people have done to me. I see you three right here* all the time, but no one ever comes and asks me my opinion, y’all never ask me to write nothing in the paper. You just write it and tell people what there should be. It shouldn’t be that way. This is my olive branch to the media. Can you guys reach out to us and ask us ourselves before you post it.”

*Reporter’s note: Henyard pointed to reporters from The Lansing Journal and Daily Southtown newspapers.

Praise and criticism

During the public comment section, 20 people shared their thoughts or asked a question. Of the 20, 15 were outwardly supportive of Henyard, while the remaining five were critical or asked questions.

Some of the praise Henyard received:

  • “There is a new person in leadership, we should give her the same respect that we gave him (Frank Zuccarelli),” said Michael Smith (Riverdale).
  • “…Your leadership lets us know what we can be, what we can achieve,” said Calumet City 2nd Ward Alderwoman Monet Wilson (Calumet City).
  • “You pulled so many of the younger generation up,” said Keith Price (Harvey).
  • “Y’all better stop this fighting,” said Edwina Watkins (Dolton), seemingly to those opposing Henyard. “This is our tax money. This just ain’t no one somebody’s money. So y’all need to get together and cut the crap.”

Henyard was also met with some criticism:

  • “What kind of diversity do we have represented here in the township now?” said Ruby Donahue (Harvey).
  • “I’m just asking the board to please be cautious, be wise, be aware of what our tax money is being spent on,” said Stephanie Wiedeman (Thornton).

Upcoming Township Events

  • April 15, Thornton Township Scholarship Deadline
  • April 15, Utility Assistance Grant for Youth
  • April 20, Big Bingo
  • April 27, Tech Savvy Senior
  • April 28, Township Talk

The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

Media members pursue Henyard

As the Thornton Township Annual Meeting came to an end, reporters from FOX and the Better Government Association approached Henyard and began asking her questions, as she had requested. The interviews ended quickly when Henyard and her advisor Keith Freeman said they would not be answering any more questions. The reporters attempted to follow Henyard to the upper level of the Township building, but were deterred by security as shown in the video below:

The next regular Thornton Township Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for April 25, 2023. Meetings are held at 6 p.m. at Thornton Township Hall, 333 East 162nd Street, South Holland.

Related

Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and his Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University. In addition to reporting for The Lansing Journal and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, he volunteers with 100 Black Men of Chicago, Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Burst Into Books, and various other organizations. A south suburban resident since 2004, Quinton is passionate about telling the unsung stories of the community.

1 COMMENT

  1. A large percentage of her positive “ commenters “ are either employed by Henyard or were recently supported by her in the municipal elections ! I would like the media to look at the Credit Card spending for multiple trips for “ Municipal Development that doesn’t fit into a townships role ( but does for DOLTON where she’s Mayor ) BUT THE TOWNSHIP PAYS THE BILL ??? Look at last falls trip to Kansas City as 1 example it was booked and billed to DOLTON yet the TWP PAID ! Take a look at 1 dinner on 10/2/22 at a fine dining Steakhouse in INDIANA where the bill without gratuity was $3400.00 !!! YES $3400.00 !! Governors couldn’t justify spending that kind of TAX MONEY FOR 1 ( ONE ) dinner !! So they eat like Kings and Queens then Henyard brags about the $25 food boxes many with dates set to expire that she provides to the residents / peasants ! It’s disgusting , in my 10yrs on the board we never once used TAX PAYER MONEY DESTINED FOR THE NEEDY TO BUY OURSELVES MEALS ! The credit card is even used many times weekly to buy meals for Admin / Employees AND FOR DELIVERY SERVICES !! Oh then let’s remember the $10,000 DONATION TO HER PRIVATE CHARITY ( illegal ) and the subsequent “ Walk to Springfield “ though representing her Charity charged all expenses to THORNTON TWP TAXPAYERS TO THE TUNE OF OVER $100,000 ! And the TWP paid over $20,000 for T-Shirts and Hoodies with her Charity name and logo on them and you can even buy them on the charities Website ! Media take her up on her offer to meet but send some FOIA’s first and see how they try to avoid giving a true answer to ? The ATTORNEY GENERAL has a few dozen complaints about this and the TWP is being sued in court ! Parting Note – that one meal for the Royals on Oct 2nd at THEO’s could have fed a needy family with good staple foods for a FULL YEAR !

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