Dolton firefighters confront Mayor Tiffany Henyard over unpaid wages, insurance issues

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire, which is why more than a dozen firefighters in south suburban Dolton are going public with their concerns about the controversies smoldering at village hall.

On Monday, those firefighters confronted Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard at a village board meeting, demanding to know where their money is.

"I’m here today with fellow members… looking for answers," said Adam Farej, Dolton Firefighter’s Union President.

Farej came with a list of questions and grievances. On Tuesday, he told FOX 32 the firefighters spoke publicly at the meeting because they'd simply had enough.

"With everything going on in the village and the media, at some point we have to put our foot down and get answers to the questions we have," Farej said.

The Dolton firefighters have been working without a pay raise or a new contract for the past four years, and they worry Dolton isn’t paying their insurance premiums because they’re getting stuck with big medical bills.

"Three members now who have pregnant wives, they’re getting their health insurance claims denied," said Farej.

They’re also alarmed that the firefighters’ own money that’s deducted from their paychecks for their retirement funds isn’t getting deposited.

"I just think it’s mismanagement," said Farej. "There’s so much going on that no one can keep up with the priority list of what’s important."

All this comes at a time when Mayor Henyard is at the center of a federal corruption investigation looking into her spending on expensive trips, a private police security detail and questionable contracts.

"This has been brought up to the village numerous times. All request to date have been ignored," said Farej.

Dolton Trustee Kiana Belcher says she believes money earmarked for the fire department and the firefighter’s insurance and retirement is being misspent by the mayor.

"And it’s actually affecting their families, their day-to-day life," said Belcher. "You go to work every day. You have money taken out of your check and then it’s not going to the proper places, that’s a concern."

In a statement, Dolton Village Manager Keith Freeman said: "We are aware of the several concerns that have been raised concerning health insurance premium payments and the shortage of the deferred compensation payments. We are committed and working tirelessly to remedy the challenges that we share as a village to attempt to make the bargaining members whole again."

The head of the Firefighters Union said despite all the problems, morale in the department remains strong.

"The Dolton fire department is here to serve and protect the residents of the Village of Dolton," said Farej. "And we do this with pride. And we will continue to serve despite the fact our health insurance is not being paid, our retirement funds are being taken from us, and worker comp claims are not being handled properly. These are serious issues and they need to be addressed and handled immediately."

Another concern raised by the firefighters is the size of the department itself, down to 15 firefighters from as many as 21 less than 10 years ago.