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‘What are we hiding?’ – Thornton Township residents ask Tiffany Henyard for the numbers

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Above: “My advice to all is always come and get the facts,” said Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard, flanked by Senior Counsel Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski, at the April 9, 2024, Annual Meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 13, 2024) – Much of the typical Thornton Township Annual Meeting consists of the reading of numbers in finance reports. At the April 9, 2024, Annual Meeting, Thornton Township Finance Director Robert Hunt read reports of the General Assistance Fund, the General Fund, and the Road and Bridge Fund. After each reading, residents in attendance at the meeting had opportunity to ask questions before voting whether to approve.

Throughout each section of comments and questions, a consistent theme was the perceived lack of access to the numbers and other information.

General Assistance Fund numbers

Following Finance Director Hunt’s reading of the 10-page General Assistance Fund report (PDF), Bill Lyons from South Holland took the podium to ask, “You know, he went through a lot of numbers here. Is there any reason why we can’t have an attachment that has the details so that we can follow these [reports]?”

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“I think it would make a lot more sense if the people in this room had access to the numbers that he read,” said Bill Lyons after the General Assistance Fund report. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

According to Lyons, the same request had been made at last year’s Annual Meeting, and at that time the administration made a commitment that the financial information would be provided.

“I think it would make a lot more sense if the people in this room had access to the numbers that he read,” said Lyons, “and then we can ask intelligent questions.”

Wendy Kelly, also from South Holland, took the podium next. She did have a printout of the report, and she explained the process she went through to get it. “I was eager to get my hands on the numbers,” she said, “and unfortunately they were not available until yesterday [April 8]. I had to come down into the town hall and get a paper copy.”

Kelly requested that going forward the reports be posted online, giving residents an opportunity to review them in advance of the meeting. “This is a lot of information, and it took me some time to go through it. So just to hear the numbers now without having it in front of them is really not fair to people because they don’t know what they’re voting on.”

Kelly also requested that meeting minutes be posted online as she was unable to find any of the 2024 minutes on the Thornton Township website.


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General Fund numbers

The second report on the agenda was the General Fund report (PDF), a 17-page report presented again by Finance Director Robert Hunt.

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Thornton Township Finance Director Robert Hunt reads a financial report to the meeting attendees. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

During the comment session, Wendy Kelly again returned to the podium to ask about specific expenses she had noted on her paper copy — an ongoing loan payment, a grant project, and food expenses. “I’m just doing this for the benefit of the people who haven’t had a chance to look at this,” she said, “because I have, so I feel like I have an advantage.” Kelly added that she had worked in corporate for 42 years and had experience in reviewing budgets and expenses. She received applause from the residents as she took her seat.

Gardis Watts of South Holland asked about the mental health program that he had been informed about at a previous meeting. “Is there a line item budget for the mental health program budget?” he asked, alluding to a program Supervisor Henyard had been seeking funding for through a special mental health referendum.

Finance Director Hunt affirmed that there is and that he would be presenting the budget to the Thornton Township Board in two weeks for approval in May.

“Do you know what the amount is?” asked Watts.

“You know, I don’t have that budget in my hand,” said Hunt. “I can get it, I just don’t have it.”

Paul Robertz, from Lansing, expressed doubt about Finance Director Hunt’s intentions to provide the requested information. “It appears that the finance director has something significant to hide from the public,” said Robertz when he took the podium. “Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to arrange a 15-minute with him just to get two numbers from 2023. He has my contact information, but a staff member here told me he would answer my questions through FOIA, but that is not the case. … The only numbers that my FOIA request produced was the annual report from Frank Zucccarelli’s last year in office.”

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Paul Robertz says he has been trying to get numbers from Finance Director Hunt since last year. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A 23-year-old software engineer (whose name this reporter could not decipher) shared his confusion about trying to find information on the Thornton Township website. He asked specifically where on the site he could find the numbers, and he suggested that the numbers could also be provided in print form at the meeting, just as the agenda is printed for everyone.

“That way us as electors can make educated decisions instead of just voting on numbers that are being basically rapid-fired at us,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair for us as electors. And I think that if we want civic engagement, we need to provide the data necessary to make educated decisions. That’s all.” The crowd applauded.

“A while ago, we used to get reports,” said Julie Pierce, following a discussion about the procedure involved in postponing the vote. “We would get the breakdown even though it was a whole bunch of numbers. I almost didn’t know what all the numbers were, but it was in our face that we had those numbers to break down. Now you want us to vote … on something blindly that we don’t even know what we’re voting on. That’s ignorant. … We need something that we can see what it is that we are voting on.”

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“We used to get reports,” said Thornton Township resident Julie Pierce at the April 9 Annual Meeting. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Explaining the law

Supervisor Tiffany Henyard took a moment to explain that the requirements of the law had in fact been fulfilled:

“Just to clear everything up once again, for everybody that maybe didn’t get it. Um, the law states that when we have a town hall meeting we can recite the numbers to you, which we have done in the past. And for this young lady [indicating Wendy Kelly], she went and got the information in paper form within 48 hours, which we had available to everybody. So it’s sad that everybody is upset they don’t have a piece of paper here today to be given to them, when literally all we have to do is recite the numbers to you or have you go get the paper from the clerk’s office. I’m just telling you what the law is. It’s like going to school for a test and you’re not prepared. You have to go do the work. So even if we have the paper readily available, people, you not gonna read it that quick. So that’s why you supposed to go get it within 48 hours, read it before you come to this meeting, so you’re equipped and ready with questions for us. So I just wanna put that out there.”

Bill Lyons suggested that the residents were simply requesting better communication, and that information could have been added to the agenda to let people know where to find the detailed reports and when they would be available. “You’re standing behind what the law says, but why don’t we try to make it easier for the citizens?”

Mary Avant wondered: “Could I ask if there’s any reason why the mic has been turned off? And the livestream? We have people here that have been cut off. We’ve got a security guard that’s rude enough to stand in front of people. This is a public meeting. This is a public meeting. There are people that didn’t make it here for whatever reason — health-wise, whatever. What are we hiding?”

“What are we hiding?” wondered Mary Avant at the Thornton Township Annual Meeting. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Road and Bridge Fund numbers

Finance Director Hunt next read the 13-page Road and Bridge Fund report (PDF).

Ronald Muhammad of Harvey took the podium to say, “I believe we, if we call up here, we can get the information of what we need that’s been presented on the meetings, because she [Supervisor Henyard] told us we can go upstairs to the clerk to get the information. So for the next meeting, if we call up here or if we come up here and go upstairs, we can get the information two days in advance, right?”

He encouraged residents to “give her a chance” and said, “It is too late to correct what happened in the past. … The bottom line is we can come here and get the information.”

Ronald Muhammad encouraged Thornton Township residents to call the office to get the information they want. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Bill Lyons made one more request that the administration make the information available via email or on the website. “This is a digital world,” he said. “I’m registered with the township, and I receive all kinds of emails. Why can’t that information come out as an email? … Or put it on the website where people know how to get it.”

Summary of business conducted

All three annual financial reports — General Assistance Fund, General Fund, and Road and Bridge Fund — were approved.

There was no personal property for the township to dispose of, so Item 7 on the agenda was dismissed.

The next Thornton Township Annual Meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, 2025, at 6:01 p.m. Per township
code, the Annual Meeting is typically scheduled on the second Tuesday of April, but during years when that date is also Election Day, the meeting is moved to the third Tuesday.

The Questions and Comments section of the posted agenda (Item 9) will be summarized in a separate article.

Thornton Township is headquartered at 333 E. 162nd Street in South Holland, Illinois.

Related

A Lansing Journal reader provided a link to last year’s audited financial report:


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Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.

2 COMMENTS

  1. And Supervisor Henyard’s response about the microphones being cut-off, making it difficult for anyone listening to a livestream, was something akin to, “Maybe they need to pay their cell phone service on time.” Wow, very professional Ms. Henyard! Shows a lot of class, doesn’t it?

  2. Henyard is the epitome of unprofessionalism and not only does she lack class, but she has no decorum or compassion. She has the nerve to ridicule the very taxpayers who pay her salary. Without them, she is nothing. She is delusional and far from the “royalty” she perceives herself to be.

    She has no power or control. Just a nasty attitude and an over-inflated ego. Money cannot buy class, character or common sense. The time for change is more than two years overdue. The good people of the township deserve an effective and honest servant leader, not a gaslighter, manipulator or party planner.

Comments are closed.