Embattled Dolton mayor says recall effort against her is unconstitutional

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The embattled mayor of Dolton has pushed back against an attempt by her political opponents on the Dolton Village Board to remove her from office, asking a Cook County judge to declare unconstitutional the village board’s attempt to place a recall referendum on the primary election ballot this summer.

On April 25, Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the Dolton Village Board and its individual members, asserting they can’t ask voters in the village to recall her from office.

Henyard was elected mayor of south suburban Dolton in 2021. In the months since, her tenure has been characterized by controversy.

She has repeatedly clashed with the She has repeatedly clashed with the board of trustees, who last year voted to censure her and sought to require her to receive approval from the village board before she can terminate any village employee, among other items, according to a report from The Southland Journal.

According to published reports, protesters have demanded her resignation, including in front of her home.

In March, Henyard drew attention for also being elected by the Thornton Township board to also serve as township supervisor, in what The Lansing Journal described as “an unprecedented series of nominations and votes,” that resulted in Henyard’s selection with just 10 minutes remaining before a legal deadline.

Most recently, the Dolton village board and its village clerk filed separate lawsuits against Henyard. The village board accused Henyard of illegally using village police as her own personal security, without approval from the village board.

And the village clerk accused Henyard of directing village staff to illegally ignore Freedom of Information requests from the public.

The trustees and village clerk are all represented in their lawsuits by attorney Michael J. McGrath, of the firm of Odelson Sterk Murphey Frazier & McGrath, of Evergreen Park.

Those cases remain pending.

However, at the same time, the village board has moved to place two referendums on the ballot for the June 28 primary election, both aimed at ousting Henyard from office before her term expires.

One referendum would ask voters to approve the creating of a legal mechanism allowing for the recall of the mayor.

The other referendum would simultaneously ask voters to recall and remove Henyard from office.

In response, Henyard filed suit, saying the referendum was unconstitutional and illegal under Illinois law.

In the lawsuit, Henyard pointed to a 2016 state appellate court decision, which thwarted an attempt by political opponents to recall her from office when she was a Dolton village trustee.

In that decision, the appellate court ruled the village board can’t order a recall of village trustee by resolution, but can ask voters to approve the recall by referendum.

At this point, however, the village’s ordinances include no provision for recall.

In her complaint, Henyard alleged the referendums proposed by the village board violate her equal protection rights, by improperly singling out the mayor’s office, but no other village office holders.

Further, Henyard asserts the village board illegally “jumped the gun” by attempting to place both referendums targeting her on the ballot at the same time.

She argues voters must first approve the creation of a recall mechanism. Until then, Henyard argued, the village board cannot ask voters to recall her from office.

“The Board, once again, puts the cart before the horse while attempting to undo by referenda what the voters accomplished at the ballot box,” according to Henyard’s complaint.

Should the referendums proceed simultaneously, as currently slated, Henyard argued voters could be confused, and deliver a “contradictory and confusing” result, by potentially voting down the creation of a recall mechanism, while also voting to remove her from office.

Henyard is represented in the action by attorneys Scott B. Erdman, of Chicago, and Robert L. Windon, of Windon Strategies, of McHenry.

via Cook County Record

April 28, 2022 at 11:01PM

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