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Public eventually allowed into Thornton Township meeting – Supervisor Henyard absent

Without Supervisor Henyard, Trustee Jerry Jones serves as “Chair Pro Tem”

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (February 28, 2024) – After initially being denied access, the public was eventually allowed to witness the February 27 Thornton Township Board meeting, which proceeded despite the absence of Supervisor Tiffany Henyard.

Initial lockout

After the exterior doors to township headquarters were unlocked at 5:54 p.m., just six minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, security directed media and members of the public downstairs. The board meetings take place in the board room, which is on the upstairs level.

Stephfon Ward, a photographer with Fox 32, stands outside of the locked Thornton Township doors at 5:52 p.m. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

In the lower level, a TV was set up that included a live audio and video feed of upstairs proceedings. On the feed, many open seats could be seen in the board room.

A TV was set up in the basement of the township building to stream the meeting, and media and residents prepared to gather around it to follow the proceedings. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

At around 6:08 p.m., the meeting had not yet started, and security told the media and the two attending members of the public they could come to the main board room meeting.

“They can come on up,” one of the guards said to the other. “That’s what he said. I’m getting this from Trustee Jerry Jones.”

After attendees made their way upstairs, Jones told The Lansing Journal he made the directive to allow the public in, but declined to comment on why he did so. When asked if he knew why the public was denied access to the February 13 meeting, he said, “I have no idea.”

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Once opened to the public, the board room still had plenty of open seats. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Trustees Jerry Jones (right) and Carmen Carlisle (left) talk with attorney Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski before the Board meeting on February 27. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Supervisor Henyard absent

The meeting was called to order at 6:18 p.m. Trustees Jerry Jones, Carmen Carlisle, and Chris Gonzales were present in person, and Trustee Darlene Gray Everett joined by phone. Supervisor Tiffany Henyard was absent.

Township Clerk Loretta Wells sets up a call for Darlene Gray-Everett, who joined the meeting remotely. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The board voted to appoint Trustee Jones as the “Chair Pro Tempore” for the meeting, to serve as the chairperson in Henyard’s absence.

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The board voted to appoint Trustee Jones as the “Chair Pro Tempore” for the meeting, to serve as the chairperson in the absence of Supervisor Henyard. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

When voting to approve the minutes from February 13’s meeting, Gonzales voted “no,” and said after the meeting that he did so because the public and media weren’t allowed access to the meeting.

“It had nothing to do with a problem in the meeting itself, it was how they kept the public out,” Gonzales said.

Approval of Bills

Gonzalez was also the sole dissenting vote to approve bills for both the General Fund and General Assistance Fund. He said after the meeting that the General Fund bills had been sent to him earlier that day, but he was unable to access the document.

“I didn’t get a chance to really go over it,” he said. “On average, there could be 400 or 500 things, and many times when I sit down, it’s the first time I’ve seen it, and there’s just no way.”

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Trustee Chris Gonzales called into question $50,000 paid to “Cornerstone Government Affairs.” He did not receive an answer to his questions. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

During the meeting, Gonzalez asked if anyone knew the purpose of five payments, each $10,000, paid to “Cornerstone Government Affairs.” Jones said he did not know, and said the question would be best directed to Finance Director Robert Hunt, who was not present at the meeting.

“That’s quite a bit of money, and if I would have gotten an answer to my question, my other question would be are there more [of those bills] coming?” Gonzales said after the meeting.

Gonzalez did join the majority in voting to approve the Road and Bridge Fund bills. He asked a clarifying question to Highway Commissioner Geary Depue, which Depue answered.

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Thornton Township Highway Commissioner Geary DePue answers a question during the February 27 Board meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Toward the end of the meeting, Clerk Loretta Wells reminded those in attendance that early voting for the presidential primary election starts on March 4.

The 11-minute meeting adjourned at 6:29 p.m.

The Thornton Township Board is scheduled to meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. at Thornton Township Headquarters, located at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland.

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Good reporting, Josh! Supervisor Henyard was being interviewed in New York City at the time and many of us were watching her there. Most of us had forgotten that Thornton Township meetings are supposed to take place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Schedules, agendas, and minutes are no longer on the Township website.

  2. The taxpayers of Lansing should know that the Village has also entered into an agreement with Cornerstone Government Affairs for consulting services for economic development- Resolution Number 1381.The fee for their services is eight advance monthly payments of $6,000. Lansing’s past experiences with lobbyist have not been successful. I would be happy to write a report to the readers, if anyone is interested. I know because I lived through it and believe me it did not work. As the Cornerstone product will not work. I offered my help to the Village Board at a public meeting but was told they were not interested. I am now having a web page constructed to give me a new way to bring this type of information to the public.

  3. I certainly would be interested in hearing much more about Cornerstone Government Affairs. What is it’s purpose? Who is running it ad what have they accomplished? Is Mr. Gonzalez the only member of the Thornton Township board who we ca trust?

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