Dolton trustees hire legal council amid transparency concerns (Dolton, IL) – Village of Dolton trustees authorized the hiring of legislative counsel Thursday after transparency concerns they had about Mayor Tiffany Henyard.
All trustees voted in favor of the move except Andrew Holmes, who along with Mayor Henyard, did not attend the special meeting held outside of village hall. Trustee House was named mayor pro tem due to Henyard’s absence. The vote means the five trustees will utilize an attorney outside of the village to answer questions and make sure ordinances are being followed properly. The money for the counsel is built into the budget, according to the trustees.
The trustees said the move was necessary, alleging some village ordinances have been neglected or not adhered to. The existing village attorney also hasn’t been responsive to questions they have about agenda items and other decisions, they said.
“One of our major concerns is spending,” Trustee Brittney Norwood said. “We have some ordinances put in place that the administration isn’t supposed to exceed a certain amount without discussing it with the board. Time and time again we are always blind sided by things that were spent and we’re saying ‘hey, how come you didn’t talk to us, so that we all know.”
“We’re just hoping with representation we have our own person to go to when we have questions and we know that they are giving us the most accurate information, so we can make the right decisions when voting on behalf of the residents,” Norwood added.
For Trustee Tammie Brown, the board is “divided right now,” she said, noting the trustees had to get legal counsel to make sure “things are done the right way.”
“The mayor ran on transparency but that’s not taking place now,” she said. “In order to get back on track, we got to do things decently and in order. For right now, everything is how the mayor wants it done (like) ‘it’s either my way or no way.’ Well guess what mayor? It’s not going to be your way. It’s going to be what the residents want and what’s good for the village.
Trustee Jason House said there have been several attempts for mediation between the five trustees and Henyard, but those channels haven’t worked.
“Without being able to resolve (the issues) amongst ourselves, we figured, like any relationship, it’s not working, you get an attorney to speak on your behalf so that way we’re not in front of everybody fighting all the time,” House said. “The laws carve out who has authority over different things and we’re going to let the attorney and the courts make those decisions.”
The vote comes after a contentious exchange between Henyard and Trustee Kiana Belcher on Aug. 30. It was over an item Henyard said was placed under a consent agenda after trustees approved it via email. Belcher said she still had questions about the item that weren’t answered. She said she rescinded her vote in a follow up email that was never responded to.
That meeting was in the aftermath of a special meeting that was cancelled in early August, Belcher said, when the vote for legislative counsel was originally scheduled. Trustees allege they were threatened with arrest if they tried to enter the village hall that day.
Today’s meeting was held in the village hall parking lot because the doors were once again locked. Henyard also allegedly sent all village employees home early that day so the doors could be locked before the trustees arrived.
A village spokesperson could not respond to a request for comment by press time about the allegations.
Valerie Stubbs, a resident and former trustee, said one of her concerns about the mayor is the way the public comment portion of meetings are handled.
At a virtual village board meeting on May 12, Henyard announced a change to how the board would address questions citizens have about agenda items. Rather than having questions addressed at the meeting, they are sent to the proper department, which will reach out to the resident individually.
Henyard has said the change was made in response to lengthy and argumentative meetings that came during previous administrations.
“I’m trying to show professionalism and show residents that there’s a protocol to everything,” she said in a May interview. “All the back and forth can get overwhelming.”
However, Stubbs said the departments don’t always respond to questions residents have after they are sent in their direction.
At Thursday’s special meeting, she called on the five trustees to do something about it.
“No offense, but you all look stupid sitting up there while residents are asking questions and no one has been answering the questions,” she said.
Trustee Edward Steave said “he thought things would be different,” after Henyard was elected.
“It’s amazing how you complain about something and become the very person you were complaining about,” Steave said, referring to Riley Rogers, former mayor.
Henyard campaigned on being more transparent than the previous administration but “what she is doing is worse than Rogers has ever done,” Stubbs said.
The meeting mostly went off without a hitch, until just a few minutes before adjournment, when an irate man began yelling at the trustees and residents, seemingly accusing them of doing the former mayor’s bidding.
The video of the full council meeting can be watched below.
*WARNING: Video Contains Explicit Language*
Dolton trustees hire legal council amid transparency concerns