The Crusader Newspaper Group

Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard cancels interview with Chicago Crusader

Embattled Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard canceled a scheduled interview last month with the Chicago Crusader, as more legal problems mount against her and the Village.

Henyard, through Thornton Township’s public relations firm, the Whittley Agency of Atlanta, reached out to the Crusader to offer an exclusive interview about her housing initiative in Dolton. The Crusader wanted to discuss concerns regarding her leadership and its impact on Dolton’s future.

Amid national stories about Henyard’s alleged lavish spending and questionable leadership, the Whittley Agency initially contacted the Crusader on May 13 via email to arrange the interview. Although the sit-down interview date was set for May 20, the Crusader waited for Henyard to confirm the exact time.

When the Crusader followed up on the day of the interview to confirm the actual meeting time, Henyard rescheduled the interview for Friday, May 24 at the Crusader office in Woodlawn, again without a specific time.

As the Crusader waited for Henyard to provide the exact time, the Whittley Agency, informed the Crusader the day before the interview via email that Henyard “will not be able to attend the interview because of another meeting that was previously unscheduled.” 

The agency stated that Henyard was still interested in an exclusive interview with the Crusader in the near future, but no new date has been set.

Henyard is at the center of a federal investigation and several lawsuits, as residents remain angry and distrustful of her leadership and spending habits.

On Monday, June 3, tensions boiled over and Dolton police filled the room as Henyard presided over a chaotic Village meeting where four Village members voted to override the mayor’s veto to hire former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to investigate Henyard.

The Crusader waited in anticipation of a followup call from the agency representative Wednesday evening — June 5. There was no followup communication about the status of the interview prior to our press time.

Lightfoot was there as well as Village Trustee and activist Andrew Holmes, who is accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a former Village employee on a trip.

During the chaotic meeting, police had to restrain several people as things grew heated and out of control.

Lightfoot’s microphone was initially cut off as she tried to update residents on her investigation of Henyard. That’s when residents began shouting repeatedly “Let her speak!” as Henyard looked on.

When Lightfoot’s mic was finally turned on, she said, “Even though they turned the mics off, we will continue working on behalf of the residents of Dolton and we will give you the facts that you deserve.”

After the meeting, Lightfoot released a statement, saying “I commend the Village of Dolton Board of Trustees for decisively exercising their authority to override Mayor Henyard’s veto and preventing any attempts to stall an independent investigation into the matters outlined in the resolution.

A majority of trustees remain committed to performing their fiduciary responsibilities on fiscal oversight and advocating for the best interests of Dolton residents. They understand that Village residents deserve a transparent and thorough process. I look forward to the work ahead and urge Mayor Henyard and her administration to fully cooperate with this investigation by promptly providing the requested documentation to give all concerned a complete and accurate accounting of the fiscal conditions for the Village.”

As the shouting continued, Henyard said, “Why would we pay anybody any money if y’all have the actual people – meaning the FBI is here. So why would we waste money?”

Henyard is accused of dining at lavish steakhouses and spending nights at five-star hotels at the expense of Dolton’s taxpayers.

On May 31, WGN-TV said its parent company, Nexstar Media Inc., filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court after Dolton declined the station’s public records request, which seeks copies of the agency’s credit card statements, as well as records relating to Henyard’s compensation and the cost of her taxpayer-funded vehicle.

WGN said after filing an appeal with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, the agency that oversees state transparency laws, the Attorney General on February 9 ordered Dolton to release the credit card statements, along with the other requested documents.

Dolton residents have called for Henyard’s resignation, but she has been defiant, even as she remains the target of an FBI investigation, which includes two subpoenas sent to Dolton’s City Hall.

In January 2024, one Dolton trustee was concerned that the Village was headed toward bankruptcy due to reckless spending and the Village’s $7 million debt. Village trustees expressed concern about the Village’s debt, and that it was not meeting its financial obligations.

In March, Fenia Dukes, the mayor’s former assistant, filed a civil lawsuit against Henyard and Trustee Holmes after they took a taxpayer-funded economic development trip to Las Vegas. There, Dukes alleges Holmes had non-consensual sex with her after dinner and a stroll on the Las Vegas strip.

Dukes accuses Holmes of assault and alleges Henyard retaliated against her after she reported the alleged encounter through Officer Byron Miles, who was part of Henyard’s security detail. Miles was demoted after he reported the alleged assault to the mayor. Miles has also filed a lawsuit against Henyard.

In 2022, Dolton residents voted to recall Henyard, but an Illinois Appellate Court ruled the referendum was illegal, allowing Henyard to remain in office.

In addition to Dolton, Henyard faces problems as Supervisor of Thornton Township. She was appointed to the position in 2022 after longtime supervisor Frank Zuccarelli died.

Henyard makes $224,000 a year in that role, but her appointment raised questions about whether Henyard can effectively serve two political positions at the same time or whether she was motivated to take that position because of the high salary.

Last month, federal investigators served two subpoenas on Thornton Township, expanding the probe against Henyard. One subpoena focuses entirely on Henyard and her two businesses. She owns a restaurant and a property management company. She also has a political fund and a charity bearing her name. The subpoena reportedly seeks all records, including personnel files, wage and tax statements, time and attendance records for work performed, contracts, and checks written to “cash.”

The second subpoena requests a kitchen sink of Township records, including financial reports, budgets, payroll records, and ordinances covering credit card purchases, expense reimbursements, security details, and use of vehicles.

Story Updated June 10, 2024 at 1:00 p.m.

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