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Former Chicago Mayor Lightfoot agrees to investigate mayor of suburban Dolton

Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to investigate Dolton mayor
Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to investigate Dolton mayor 02:45

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday agreed to investigate Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard amid claims that Henyard misused public funds.

Lightfoot released the following statement, which she also read at a Dolton Village Board of Trustees meeting Monday evening:

"I am honored that the Village of Dolton Board of Trustees has placed their confidence in me to conduct a thorough and timely independent investigation into the matters outlined in the resolution regarding Mayor Tiffany Henyard and her administration. As someone who has made good governance the cornerstone of my career in public service, I recognize that maintaining the trust of those you serve and making decisions in their best interests is essential. The residents of Dolton deserve nothing less than a government that is fully accountable, responsive, transparent, and effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.

"As a lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and mayor, I bring expertise in leading investigations of this kind and understand the complex challenges of governing. I will follow the facts where they lead, without bias, and reserve comments until the work is complete. At the conclusion of this investigation, I will provide an assessment of the findings and recommendations. I welcome and urge the full cooperation of Mayor Henyard, her staff, Village Trustees, vendors, and others who have information relevant to this inquiry."

Lightfoot received a standing ovation from Dolton residents Monday night as she accepted her appointment.

Henyard was noticeably absent from the meeting.

The former Chicago mayor said she is committed to getting down to the facts. The board pointed to her experience as a former prosecutors and private attorney to get the job done.

Lightfoot received a standing ovation from Dolton residents Monday night as she accepted her appointment.

The village board retained Lightfoot at a rate of $400 an hour to investigate Henyard on claims of misuse of village money – which Henyard has repeatedly denied.

"We have tried lawsuits. All it has done is rack up more attorney's fees," said Burton Odelson, legislative counsel to the Dolton Village Board. "Hiring Mayor Lightfoot to do a prompt investigation will lead the board to where they need to go as to the next step."

"We feel this option will give us an independent process," added Dolton Village Trustee Jason House.

Allegations against Henyard and her administration

The Dolton mayor has been accused of misusing public funds while the village is millions of dollars in debt – including lavish personal spending, reportedly on the taxpayers' dime.

"And we're now $7 million-plus in debt," said Dolton Village Trustee Kiana Belcher. "We're bleeding right now, and bleeding leads to death - and this is death of a community."

Lightfoot will be tasked with investigating those claims, and also a village employee's claims that she was sexually assaulted by a Dolton village trustee on a trip to Las Vegas – and then retaliated against. The employee claimed after she told the mayor about the lawsuit, she was eventually fired.

A resolution calling for hiring Lightfoot says that Henyard, her security detail, two board trustees, and other village employees traveled to Las Vegas in May 2023 for what was purported to be a trip focused on "economic development," and when they returned, "there was a total failure to report anything relative to potential economic development, or any other events that took place in Las Vegas, to the Board of Trustees."

The resolution also states the board later learned of "serious sexual assault allegations" made by a former Dolton employee against a board trustee during the trip, and that Henyard and others in her administration "have gone to great lengths to cover-up and hide the alleged sexual misconduct and reporting of the sexual misconduct."

On Monday night, the board also overrode Mayor Henyard's veto from a March meeting of the resolution to investigate her spending.

Lightfoot has been appointed as an "Additional Legislative Counsel to fully investigate" the Las Vegas trip, as well as allegations that Henyard has misspent federal COVID-19 relief funds, hired contractors without seeking proper bids, overpaid vendors without approval from the board, and accepted large campaign contributions from vendors chosen by the mayor.

Dolton residents voted to recall Henyard in June 2022, but the mayor took her fight to court, and won when the Illinois Appellate Court later ruled that the votes to recall Henyard were not valid.

In February, Dolton village trustees called for an outside investigation into allegations that Henyard had been misusing public funds. This accusation came at the same time the Illinois Attorney General's Office told Henyard's charity multiple times in recent months to stop improperly soliciting donations because it had not registered with the state as required by law.

Some Dolton residents questioned the possibly hefty price tag that would come with Lightfoot's appointment.

The board said it will reevaluate Lightfoot's work, and check in with residents, at the $30,000 mark.

Lightfoot is expected to start her investigation as soon as Tuesday.  

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