Monday, October 2, 2023

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Local Voices: Addressing illegal activities by an elected official


Steps for ordinary citizens

illegal activities
Sherry Hatcher-Britton
by Sherry Hatcher-Britton

The process for addressing illegal activities by an elected official can be tedious and frustrating, and there is no clear path for ordinary citizens to take. However, I can provide some general guidelines based on my own recent experiences.

One overarching recommendation: If you have an attorney or know of someone who could provide legal counsel, consult with them throughout the process. They can provide accurate and up-to-date advice for presenting your allegations. An attorney who specializes in government or public law can provide guidance on the specific laws and procedures relevant to Cook County, township level, or municipal level politics.

Here are the steps I suggest:

1. Follow the Process

At the local level, start by contacting directly the officials responsible for the information you seek. Ask the Mayor or Supervisor directly whatever questions you have, and copy those Boards of Trustees and the Clerks. The Thornton Township website says, the Clerk is “responsible for keeping and making official records and legislation accessible to residents.” (Source: – 6/27/23) Maintain records of any emails you send and any responses you receive.

2. Submit a FOIA Request

If you do not receive a response to your direct contact, you can invoke the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) to get public information: “Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” (Source: – 6/27/23)

Thornton Township has FOIA instructions on their website: “To request public records from Thornton Township, please submit in writing, (either via email or mail), a letter detailing the documents you are requesting to have access. The letter should be sent to one of our Freedom of Information Officers.” Three officers are listed: Vanessa Marshall, Temika Henyard (yes, Supervisor Tiffany Henyard’s first cousin), and Joslyn King, all with the same email address, [email protected]. Maintain records of any emails you send and any responses you receive.

By the way, Freedom of Information is something the average citizen can participate in and document. Any citizen can go through the process of requesting public information and can keep records of how their requests are handled. Recently I had questions about the Youth Summit promoted by Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard, so I submitted a very detailed FOIA request. After waiting 10 days without receiving even an acknowledgement, I shared that email with The Lansing Journal. (Click to download a PDF of that email.)

3. Know your Civil Rights

Remember that elected officials are public servants. The money they spend is public money. The meetings they hold are public meetings. The records they keep are public records. You have a right to this information. If it is not made available to you, that is a violation of your civil rights.

4. Contact Relevant Authorities

In Illinois, the role of the Attorney General is to protect civil rights. If your requests for information are being ignored by an elected official, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office:

    (When you arrive on this page, scroll down to the list of complaints the AG’s office manages. Choose “Civil Rights Complaint.” There you will be able to download a PDF form that you can complete and submit online.)

There is not a chain of command in Illinois politics, so if you have other documented complaints about local elected officials, call everyone to voice those complaints. The more noise you make and the more people who hear your story, the greater the likelihood that you’ll get a response. You could start local and contact the police department if you suspect illegal activity, or even if you have questions about whether something is illegal. If you need to go higher up, some helpful contact info is listed below:

  • Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul: 100 West Randolph Street, Chicago IL 60601, 312-814-3000
  • Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx: 69 W. Washington, Suite 3200, Chicago IL 60602, 312-603-1880, [email protected]
  • Better Government Association: 223 W Jackson Blvd #300, Chicago, IL 60606, 312-427-8330
  • Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (Chicago office): 555 W. Monroe St., 16th Floor, Chicago, IL 60661, 312-814-2121

Be as specific and thorough as possible when you reach out. Provide any relevant information to support your claims.

Even after doing all this, there is no guarantee of success, certainly not quick success. In fact, I admit to experiencing a lot of frustration that other elected officials in Cook County and beyond have been so quiet regarding the recklessness I and others have reported in Dolton and in Thornton Township. When hardworking, involved citizens take the time to share concerns — repeatedly — it is disheartening to be ignored.

But we as voters cannot give up! We need to keep engaging with local government officials, community organizations, and the media to raise awareness and promote accountability.

That’s why I’m sharing this information here. I want people to learn from my experience, so they can get involved too. Together we can make a difference.

Sherry Hatcher-Britton, Concerned Citizen

Local Voices
Local Voices
Local Voices is The Lansing Journal's version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Submissions may be sent to [email protected] with “Voices” in the subject line.


  1. I very impressed with a RESIDENT taking the TIME to put such a INFORMATIVE piece of POLICTICAL INFO regarding “CIVICS” into WORDS and ACTIONS!


  2. My compadre, this is such a big step that you have taken and I hope that more residents take this big step as well… You already know that I’m following in your footsteps… We, the people, will come out on top… THANK YOU

  3. Well said Sherry, Thank you for taking the time to put together and submit this indepth checklist for All Of Dolton and Thornton Township Residents to follow. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!

  4. We as residents of Dolton, citizens of Thornton Township, must step up to the plate and challenge OUR elected officials. One would have to be blind or ignorant not to be aware of the mis-management of procedures and protocol in both the village and township. I am eternally grateful for your assistance in addressing these matters.

  5. Sherry, You have done a commendable job!
    I no longer live in the township but have family there. I hate this disreputable “administration of government” I see.
    I spent many years living in Lansing & knew so many wonderful people who worked for the township & treated its citizens with dignity & respect.
    What is happening now is disgraceful & reeks of misdeeds. If it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck…you know the rest.
    When the good citizens win this battle (& they will) if it is kept in the public eye, I think you would make a fine leader.
    Thank you for your diligence!

  6. Thank you for this informative detailed instructions on what citizens can do. Much needed and greatly appreciated!

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