Township supervisor gets $224K, but salary drops to $25K if voters pick someone else

Township supervisor gets $224K, but salary drops to $25K if voters pick someone else

An embattled Chicago-area township supervisor is being accused of discouraging competition ahead of her campaign by cutting the position’s pay if she loses. It may be illegal, but someone would need to sue.

Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard makes $224,000 a year. If voters oust her, her replacement would only earn $25,000.

Similar cuts await township board members if incumbent trustees lose their elections.

The southern Cook County township’s board passed an ordinance in early December that would cut salaries for newcomers. While state law prohibits changing salaries for those currently in office before the next election, can punishing opponents who defeat incumbents be legal?

“No. It’s so illegal in so many ways. It violates so many tenets of the law,” municipal attorney Burt Odelson told Fox 32.

Henyard’s $224,000 is abnormally high for a township supervisor job and is atop $46,000 she is paid as mayor of Dolton. In 2021, Forbes reported the supervisor salary as one of the highest local government salaries in Illinois, having reached that amount in 2017 under Frank Zuccarelli. It’s a higher salary than 49 of 50 state governors, including J.B. Pritzker.

Cutting the salary to $25,000 for anyone in the job would be more in line with what a township supervisor typically makes. According to the Township Officials of Illinois group, 57% of township supervisors in the Chicago area make less than $30,000 a year.

Henyard has faced multiple controversies since she came into office, both as township supervisor and as Dolton mayor. Accusations include:

In 2021 the Dolton board attempted to recall Henyard by ballot measure in light of spending concerns. It passed, but a judge later threw it out.

Henyard was appointed township supervisor after Zuccarelli died. She is up for election in 2025. Her opponents believe the ordinance is a way to discourage anyone from running against her. It violates equal protection principles and likely would be tossed if challenged in court, said Odelson, who represents Henyard’s opponents in Dolton.

Illinois already has a bad track record for uncontested elections. Although there’s been some progress at the state level during the past two elections, there’s less information available about how competition has fared at the municipal level. Lack of competition is a problem because it disenfranchises voters by preventing them from making a real choice that reflects their values and discourages them from coming out to vote.

Plus, corruption breeds where there is no competition for public office. Corruption costs Illinois an estimated $556 million a year.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!