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‘We are fed up’ – residents speak out against Tiffany Henyard at Thornton Township annual meeting

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Above: Gardis Watts of South Holland addresses Supervisor Tiffany Henyard at the 2024 Thornton Township Annual Meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Criticisms of Tiffany Henyard administration stack up during 90 minutes of public comment

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (April 17, 2024) – The April 9 Thornton Township Annual Meeting included nearly an hour-and-a-half of public comments from 18 local residents. Many of those comments were directed at Supervisor Tiffany Henyard.

Although the original agenda supplied to The Lansing Journal listed this section of the meeting as “Questions and Comments,” the agenda handed out to attendees said only “Comments.”

Stephanie Wiedeman, longtime critic of Supervisor Tiffany Henyard, was elected moderator of the meeting. She asked both Henyard and attorney Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski if they would be answering questions. Throughout the evening, both repeatedly declined to respond directly to the public’s questions and concerns. Some other elected officials did respond, including Trustee Darlene Gray-Everett and Trustee Chris Gonzalez.

At one point during the meeting, Moderator Wiedeman pointed out the change in the wording of the agenda:

As the public comment section of the meeting started, Wiedeman said, “I’m going to open the floor for the public to speak. They wanted me to do a three-minute time limit, but since the elected officials got to speak as long as they wanted to, I think it’s fair that the public does.”

The commenters covered a range of topics. The Lansing Journal has attempted to categorize and summarize them below.

Unity, mediation, cohesion

  • Tio Hardiman of Calumet City, and the Executive Director of Violence Interruptors, encouraged mediation as a strategy to find common ground and seek peace in Thornton Township. “Black folks, we continue to tear each other down all the time. Our division and lack of unity is destroying us. Why don’t we try to mediate with Tiffany instead of investigate?” he said.
  • Felicia Johnson of Harvey said she respected Tiffany Henyard and asked what she could to do help her. “I’m not going to knock your crown off, Queen. I’m going to straighten it,” she said.
  • Keith Price of Harvey, and a Thornton Township staffer, touched on many topics but focused on how the township is being perceived in the world. “What hurts the most is how we look as Black people in this room, with cameras, just looking like wild animals,” he said. “We gotta look better to the public. Sit down and talk, sit down and try to work something out, come to an agreement somewhere. We shouldn’t be looking like this to the entire world.”
  • Melville King of Harvey said the township needs to work together to regain its success: “What we have to work on is getting that cohesion that we had at one time — to build it back up. … Let’s be the best township in the whole state of Illinois.”

Looking for changes and answers

  • Donkor Parker of South Holland, and a former Thornton Township employee, asked Trustee Darlene Gray-Everett if she felt the township board was doing a good job. “Absolutely,” was her eventual response. Parker also pointed to 2025 as an important year for voters looking to improve Thornton Township, saying, “Election Day is where we make the change.” The interaction got heated at times:

  • A 23-year-old South Holland resident encouraged township leaders to foster civic engagement by taking “good-faith actions,” including making information readily available. “You say that you want us to be civically engaged. You say that you want us to be showing up and present in these meetings, but from my first meeting at Thornton Township, it seems like there’s actions being taken that are at the detriment of the citizens of this township,” he said.
  • Paul Robertz of Lansing asked the attorney, Tiffany Nelson-Jaworski, if she was the township’s attorney, or Tiffany Henyard’s attorney. He also asked how expensive it is to reply to a Freedom of Information Act request. He did not receive an answer. “The clerk said this was comment and questions, and that’s what was posted publicly two weeks ago,” he protested.
  • Gardis Watts of South Holland responded to comments Tiffany Henyard had made about the voters’ choice to vote down a mental health referendum that would have raised taxes in Thornton Township. “We are not brainwashed, we are fed up. Nobody said that we didn’t think mental health was important. We just don’t trust you to fix it,” he said, receiving applause from the audience:

Racial implications

  • Wendy Kelly of South Holland said as a leader, Henyard needs to be accountable for her actions, regardless of her skin color. “This is not attacking you as a Black woman,” said Kelly, a Black woman herself. “I’ve always been held accountable for my performance, my results. And I expect the same of you.”

  • Jedidiah Brown claimed to have evidence of corruption in Dolton and Thornton Township. He encouraged Henyard to think about the racial impacts of her choices. He said, “The history you’re creating — there’s going to be another Black woman that’s going to run, and she’s going to be looked at through the lens of what you do and your governing. … The best thing you can do with all this controversy is step aside.”

Betrayals of trust

  • Trina Downs of Dolton said she once supported Henyard. Speaking directly to Henyard, she said, “I pushed you forward to speak.” She had a long list of issues, including incompatibility of office, a recent Dolton Board meeting that she was locked out of, and sexual assault allegations against Dolton Trustee Andrew Holmes. “Why are people having sex on official, municipal trips?” she asked. Downs also questioned Trustee Chris Gonzalez’s choice to nominate Henyard for Supervisor in 2022, referencing a recent Lansing Journal interview.
  • Nate Fields of South Holland said he worked for Thornton Township for almost 14 years, including as a photographer. He said that on the day Frank Zuccarelli died, Henyard told him, “Nate, whatever you need, I got you.” He then asked, “Tiffany, I want to know why I got fired from Thornton Township. I was told that I was a good photographer.” He also said, “When you told me that you got me, and I trusted in you, you didn’t have me. So where’s the accountability?”

The Democratic Convention

  • Algie Crivens of Calumet City said Thornton Township needs to highlight its best and stop bickering, especially in light of the Democratic Convention coming to Chicago. “We need to elevate and highlight different parts of Thornton Township so that the Democratic Party can come through,” he said. He emphasized the need to get the vote out, increasing voter turnout from 13%, which he described as an “F grade.”
  • Kisha McCaskill of Harvey said she is an ambassador for the Democratic Convention. “We have an opportunity to bring millions of dollars outside of the City of Chicago and to our actual neighborhood. But how can I actually make those recommendations when this is all they see?” she asked. “It doesn’t matter what political party you’re with. This is about business. We have an opportunity to bring value and dollars to our communities. When people are looking at where they want to place grants, they look at things like this. We have to be more accountable for our behavior. Period. Everyone in here is an adult.”

Other comments

  • Beatrice, a South Holland resident and township staffer, critiqued members of the media for treating township employees poorly. “Media is badgering the workers,” she said, getting emotional. “All I want to do is work for my community. … It’s very scary when you have grown men coming at you and threatening you. I’m scared to come to work. I’m scared. I don’t want to feel scared to come to work every day.”
  • Mary Avent of Dolton encouraged residents to attend a rally at 1 p.m. on April 27 at the old Sears building in River Oaks Mall. She said the rally is called, “Unity: Take Our Township Back.”
  • Michael Smith of Riverdale made a variety of accusations and implications during his comments, asking Trustee Gonzalez why he was no longer the Township Assessor, and if he’d gone to Las Vegas as part of a township trip. Yelling and pointing, Smith said Gonzalez should be ashamed, and told Township Assessor Cassandra Elston she was “terrible.” “Put the truth out,” he said. At one point during his comment, Elston stood up and said, “Can we please act like adults in here?”

  • Sean Paul Reyes, an independent journalist from the YouTube channel Long Island Audit accused the Henyard administration of severe corruption while he live-streamed the meeting on his phone. “I travel across the country from New York to California and everywhere in between, investigating corruption. I have never, ever seen corruption like Mayor Tiffany Henyard. Super mayor, super corrupt.”
  • At one point during the meeting, an unofficial commenter who didn’t share his name yelled: “End the occupation now. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. Free, free Palestine!”
  • Ashley Davis of Dolton made a motion to adjourn the township meeting at 9:44 p.m.

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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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. SUPER SUPERVISOR TIFFANY AWESOME HENYARD HAS DONE WAY MORE FOR THESE COMMUNITIES AND CITIZENS THAN I HAVE EVER SEEN ANYBODY DO IN THE 34 YEARS I’VE LIVED OUT HERE IN THORNTON TOWNSHIP !!! I HATE MINDLESS MINIONS, AND BULLIES…I LOVE YOU MISS HENYARD!!! AND THANK YOU???❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  2. Is Donkor (red top and red sweatpants) a
    “former” TT employee? Not sure about that. I heard him say 20 year employee, not “former” employee. He was great. He got in their face.

    Michael Smith’s rant was over the top and comical. I’ve never seen anything like it at a public meeting. You should have provided better context on what he said and commented on his means of communication and lack of professionalism. And, it’s fair game to provide context on his legal troubles as a supporter of Tiffany; as he has no credibility to get up there and rant. His issues and history are public.

    Jedidiah’s words were epic. You missed an opportunity to provide a moving recap of his words and his challenge to Tiff on Andrew Holmes on the SA allegations and her lack of leadership to TT and Dolton. He was the most on point speaker at the meeting.

    In general, your writer and editor needs to concentrate on painting a better picture for the reader. Context matters when reporting.

    Sorry if this feedback seems harsh.

Comments are closed.