Dolton Park District president accuses Mayor Tiffany Henyard of political retaliation

The head of the Dolton Park District claims embattled Mayor Tiffany Henyard is playing political games with their efforts to improve the town's parks.

Dolton Park District President Cleo Jones said Henyard is retaliating after the park district allowed four of her political opponents to use a field house for meetings. Jones said part of the retaliation came in the mail last week.

"I have four tickets issued from the Village of Dolton," said Jones. "Each ticket is $500 apiece. That is $2,000 in tickets that I have here."

Jones said they were stunned when they received the citations for doing work without a permit. Two of the tickets were issued for spreading fresh mulch on district playgrounds.

"Every year we replenish the mulch in the park to ensure the kids are playing on a safe surface. Healthy mulch, and we do this every year," Jones said. When asked if the district had ever been required to obtain a permit to spread mulch, Jones replied, "Never. Never in a million years."

The other two tickets appear to be for replacing old playgrounds with brand new equipment.

"My response was, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? What does the village have to do with the park district?" said Jones.

Jones believes the Dolton Park District, a separate unit of government, is being targeted by Henyard, who is currently at the center of an FBI corruption investigation. The Park District contends this is retaliation for allowing the four Dolton Village trustees opposed to Henyard to hold meetings at a park district field house after they were barred from Village Hall.

"We do not play politics here," Jones said. "And do not put us in the middle of politics by issuing us these political citations."

The Park District also alleges that Henyard is holding up $600,000 in grants for park improvements. One grant is from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the other is from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. They claim Henyard is refusing to issue the permits needed to proceed with the work.

"We’ve gone to the village for permitting and they’ve been unresponsive," said Dolton Park District Executive Director Stephanie Wiedeman. "I have a project manager that’s working on that, and they just refuse to give us the permits."

Wiedeman said if they don’t get the permits in the next few weeks, a $400,000 grant to overhaul Blackstone Park with a new walking path and gazebo will expire. Taxpayers will then have to absorb $150,000 already spent on the park’s design.

"What resident wants to look outside of their house and see beat-up stuff?" asked Wiedeman. "If we can upgrade these things and we are prevented from doing so by lack of a permit, the residents are suffering. They don’t get to look out their door and see nice things because you’re stopping it."

As for the $2,000 worth of mulch tickets, the district hopes to contest them. However, if they lose, it will come out of the pockets of Dolton taxpayers.

"Just because we finished doing something safe for the community, upgrading the playgrounds. Why? Why would we receive a citation for upgrading our playgrounds?" asked Jones.

Mayor Henyard was contacted for a response but has not yet replied.