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Surprise twist: Thornton Township trustees vote against Tiffany Henyard

General Fund and General Assistance Fund budgets not approved; Road and Bridge Fund budget approved amid heated discussion

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (June 3, 2024) – Twice as many people gathered in the lower level of Thornton Township headquarters on Friday afternoon as had assembled on May 28 for the meeting that was cancelled due to “lack of quorum.” They were there to ask questions and express concerns about the proposed 2024-2025 Thornton Township Budget. The 1 p.m. meeting started around 1:30 p.m.

Two budgets not approved

After nearly three hours of public comment, presentations, disruptions, and discussions, the Thornton Township Board of Trustees arrived at Item IX on their board meeting agenda, “Resolutions / Proclamations / Ordinances. Three votes were requested:

  1. Approve Resolution 24-R-007 Approving an Equipment Purchase and Installation Agreement with Titan Trucks Manufacturing, LLC
  2. Adopt 2024/2025 Budget and Appropriation Ordinance 24-002 for Thornton Township General Assistance Fund
  3. Adopt 2024/2025 Budget and Appropriation Ordinance 24-003 for Thornton Township General Fund

Confusion surrounded the outcome, partly because the microphones were at times not working or not used, and several off-mic conversations led to outcries from the public. Ultimately, the Titan Trucks agreement was not approved, and the General Assistance Fund and General Fund budgets were tabled:

Missing the budget deadline

According to Illinois Municipal Budget Law, a public body like Thornton Township “shall, within or before the first quarter of each fiscal year, adopt a combined annual budget and appropriation ordinance.”

As The Lansing Journal reported in a May 29 article, Thornton Township’s fiscal year started on March 1, making Friday, May 31, the last day that a budget could legally be approved. It is unclear what the next steps are now that the deadline has not been met for these two budgets.

Road and Bridge Fund budget approved

Earlier in the afternoon, toward the end of the second public hearing, Thornton Township Trustees did vote to approve the Road and Bridge Fund budget, despite heated discussion, motions to table the resolution, and impassioned speeches by Highway Commissioner Geary Depue:

HAP contract approved

Going back to the board meeting, Item X on the agenda asked for a “Motion to approve awarding the HAP Lawn Mowing and Maintenance Services Request for Proposals to the Successful Bidder (Larrell’s 4 Season Lawn Care Service) and to authorize Township Officials and the Township Attorney to negotiate a contract consistent with this award.” This motion passed, following discussion and questions from three of the four trustees:

Thornton Township’s HAP (Henyard Assistance Program) was originally known as ZAP (Zuccarelli Assistance Program) and was designed to hire youth to provide lawn care services for senior citizens. The service was free for seniors, and it gave young people work experience and a small wage. This year residents have questioned why HAP services are not being offered consistently and why they are being provided by a commercial service rather than local young people.

The hearings prior to the meeting

The Thornton Township Board meeting was preceded by two public hearings — one for the General Fund and General Assistance Fund, and one for the Road and Bridge Fund. According to the agendas, those hearings had been allotted 10 minutes, but it was more than two hours before the public was finished being heard.

Note: We apologize in advance for any misspelled names of public commenters. The poor audio made it difficult to hear the names that were given or read. If you let us know about an error, we will be happy to correct it online.

Nine residents spoke for a total of 23 minutes during the public comment section of the General Fund / General Assistance Fund hearing. Lansing resident Paul Robertz was the first to approach the podium. He had received a copy of the budget on May 20 and shared it on social media along with his questions about the numbers. His public comment at the May 31 hearing pointed out the public engagement process outlined on page 15, a process that should have started last December. “I’m not sure if that happened,” he said.

Vivian Allen of Riverdale expressed outrage at the exorbitant spending and salary of the Supervisor. “Why don’t you spend YOUR money?” she asked. “Stop stealing ours! You got more than everybody in here! Stop stealing our money!”

Others asked for transparency and honesty, and for the current administration to step down. Sonya Odegaard questioned the decision to decrease the Township Assessor’s budget. Gardis Watts asked about loans that are still on the books.

Supervisor Henyard responded:

Explaining the numbers

Around 2 p.m. Finance Director Robert Hunt began a 10-minute reading of the General Assistance Fund budget.

“He just broke the numbers down to you,” explained Henyard. “I know some of y’all didn’t get it, but, you can take this package home with you, study it, learn it, ask somebody that has a finance background. That way you will have a better understanding what is going on and not what is told to you.”

Explaining the services

Henyard then introduced the heads of the various programs funded by taxpayer dollars in Thornton Township and invited them to explain the services they offer:

  • Tannika Hughes – General Assistance
  • Marcia Brown – Senior Services
  • Tamika Henyard – Senior Services
  • Evelyn Harmon – Youth and Family Services
  • Stan Brown – Outreach and Henyard Assistance Program
  • Keith Price – General Assistance Food Pantry

Those presentations, a repeat of what occurs at the monthly “Township Talks” marketing events, lasted 30 minutes.

Explaining taxes

It was 2:40 p.m. when Henyard began an explanation of how each of the 17 municipalities within Thornton Township raises property taxes each year. “So now I think you got a better understanding of how your property taxes is calculating, where it come from, and where you’re going, and if you want the information please check it out,” she said.

Some of her comments are included in the video below:

Disruptions and de-escalations

Finance Director Hunt’s presentation of the General Fund budget was interrupted briefly when South Holland Police arrived in response to Henyard’s demand that Vivian Allen be removed from the meeting for creating a disturbance. Allen had declined to be escorted out by Henyard’s security officers, and the situation was escalated to the local police force. Those officers, after speaking with Allen and assessing the situation, left without arresting or removing anyone.

South Holland police (left) arrived at the budget hearing and spoke with Vivian Allen but did not make an arrest. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Another disturbance erupted during the board meeting, which began at 3:35 p.m. Unlike the public hearings, the board meeting required public comment participants to sign up ahead of time. A woman who did not hear Clerk Loretta Wells announce that requirement tried to make a public comment anyway. Despite Henyard’s insistence that she was out of order, the crowd prevailed, and the woman was allowed to speak.

Other public comment participants during the board meeting included Paul Robertz, Naomi LePresto, Jedidiah Brown, Vivian Allen, Stephanie Wiedeman, Tasha Holloway, and Sonya Odegaard. Janelle Tate[?] asked whether taxpayers had purchased a BMW for township personnel:

Some of Robertz’s comments are included below:

Trustee Jerry Jones

Having listened to formal public comments from two public hearings and the board meeting, as well as informal comments and shout-outs throughout the afternoon, Trustee Jerry Jones decided it was time to take a stand:

The next Thornton Township Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, at 6 p.m. at 333 E 162nd Street in South Holland, Illinois. Thornton Township does not send the meeting agenda to The Lansing Journal for publication before the meeting.

Full meeting video

The full video of the meeting is included below:

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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.

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