DOLTON, Ill — It’s a town in turmoil. Village Board meetings erupt into chaos amid allegations of misspending and harassment. And lawsuits accuse officials of targeting political opponents.
It’s becoming a regular occurrence in south suburban Dolton.
It seems no one agrees on who to blame, though many concede it’s the residents and business owners who are suffering.
“It’s all a very big abuse of power,” Stephanie Wiedeman, director of the Dolton Park District, said.
Take the case of Lawrence Gardner. The Dolton truckyard owner claims he’s been repeatedly harassed for not supporting Mayor Tiffany Henyard.
“I’m suffering,” Gardner said. “They destroyed my trucking company. They shut my store down.”
Gardner said the village wrongly revoked his business license. Village records, however, show he’s been accused of throwing illegal parties.
Where his allegations are concerned, he’s not alone.
Others in town share similar stories of alleged retaliation for not backing Henyard, a former trustee who was elected mayor in 2021.
“It’s a regular occurrence,” Wiedeman said. “She uses the police force to intimidate residents.”
In Wiedeman’s case, she said the mayor objected to a car show on park district property and had the event shut down.
“She used her entire police force to come in and prevent something from happening because things didn’t go her way really,” she said.
Businesses and village employees are now suing Dolton.
“I filed the lawsuit because I am a victim of retaliation,” Aris Montgomery, Dolton’s deputy village clerk, said. “People are walking on eggshells, so to speak. They’re afraid to have an opinion about anything or to fulfill their duties.”
In her complaint, filed last May in federal court, Montgomery claims the board increased her pay to $60,000, but Henyard “ordered…not to implement the raise” because Montgomery is not among her supporters.
WGN Investigates caught up to the mayor at a recent board meeting. Her team said she wouldn’t discuss specific allegations.
But Henyard, who has called herself the “people’s mayor,” denied targeting opponents.
“I don’t touch stuff like that,” Henyard said.
She blamed the dysfunction on some village board members, adding it was no different from the politics in other communities.
As for questions about her leadership style, Henyard said, “I want people to know I’m caring. I love what I do. I stay in the fire for them, and I bring products and produce things in the community for them.”