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Tempers flare in Harvey, Illinois as business owners complain of unfair fines

Chaotic confrontation erupts between residents, mayor in Harvey, Illinois
Chaotic confrontation erupts between residents, mayor in Harvey, Illinois 03:09

HARVEY, Ill. (CBS) -- South suburban Dolton has made headlines lately for chaotic confrontations at its village hall—as ongoing investigations of overspending often cause blow-ups between Mayor Tiffany Henyard and residents.

On Thursday, tensions similarly boiled over in south suburban Harvey. Business owners there say they are being slapped with unnecessary fees—but city leaders said they need the money.

Benecia Gonzalez is among the business owners complaining.

"To us, it might be a small shop, but for us, it's where everything started," she said.

Gonzalez has not been able to open her auto repair business, the Harvey Auto Center, since May.

"From one day to the next, we were forced to shut down—and this sign was put on our window," she said, pointing to a "cease and desist" sticker.

The shop, which has been in Gonzalez's family for over two decades, had its business license renewal denied because they owed property taxes.

"I'm doing everything in my power to pay these tax bills that was left behind, but you know, I'm only 24 years young—and I'm doing what I can do," she said.

Harvey business owners in a similar position were offered a settlement agreement with the city—pay $2,500 a month and keep their business open.

CBS 2 caught up to Harvey Mayor Christopher Clark as he left a special Harvey City Council meeting Thursday.

"The only thing we are asking is for those businesses to pay their property taxes—and stop using our city services for free," said Clark.

But Harvey Ald. Colby Chapman (2nd), a vocal critic of Mayor Clark, questioned the practice.

"It's unethical," she said. "I can't say it's illegal, but it certainly seems unethical."

Chapman also said the underserved suburb is, at times, dysfunctional.

Meanwhile, Pastor Jonathan Johnson said he was in disbelief when he was told his church would need to register for a business license.

"It was almost $700. I said, where did this come from? We are federally and state exempt from taxes," said Johnson, "and I really do feel like it's more of a dictatorship here in the city of Harvey at this point."

Minutes into the City Council meeting, someone in the spectator area was removed by police at the direction of Mayor Clark. Officers handcuffed the man and led him out of City Hall.

"I'm the chair, and I am responsible for keeping the order," Mayor Clark said. "If people in the audience or in the council don't want to keep that order, they will removed."

Chapman wants the State of Illinois needs to get involved.

"I'm calling on every state official—we need help," she said. "We need strong oversight."

Mayor Clark said churches now need a business license for safety reasons. He said without one, the city cannot inspect churches.

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