DOLTON, Ill. (CBS) — Nearly three months ago, CBS 2 exposed serious problems involving mold, water, and leaks in a south suburban rental home owned by a Dolton village trustee.
Since then, the renter said it has only gotten worse. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov has also learned the trustee is pocketing tens of thousands of your tax dollars for a house that is now unlivable.
Jacaline Smith and her two children called a hotel room at Prestige Inn & Suites in Dolton for almost a month – ever since the Dolton house they were renting from Village Trustee Tiffany Henyard was slapped with a sticker reading, “Not approved for occupancy.”
“A big red sign that I cannot live there because it’s unlivable,” Smith said.
The reason mostly has to do with mold.
“All mold – even growing on the bottom of the shoes is mold,” Smith said.
It is mold that Smith’s landlord, trustee Henyard, pledged to clean up immediately after we first reported on the problem in August.
Smith said workers came and painted, and the house even passed a village inspection. In a September report, inspector Brian Thigpen wrote in his notes, “Issues abated.”
Except they weren’t.
“It’s horrible,” Smith said.
Enter activist David Lowery, who called Dolton directly. Suddenly, the house that was deemed livable on Sept. 3 because unfit for occupancy on Oct. 15.
Lowery’s theory is that “the trustee used her power and influence.”
We caught up with Henyard before last week’s village board meeting.
Kozlov: “I want to talk to you about the house on Dearborn. Can we do that?”
Henyard: “My attorney’s right here, so if you have any questions, I have legal counsel. Talk to my attorney.”
Kozlov: “So you want me to talk to your attorney and not you. You can’t tell me how that house failed an inspection in October when it just passed beforehand?”
Henyard: “If you have any questions, talk to my attorney.”
So we did.
“The inspection process is within control of the village, not of the trustee,” said Henyard’s attorney, Kelli Dudley. “She has been instructed by the village attorney to be treated just like any other property owner.”
Dolton’s attorney said the house’s inspection history is under investigation. Meanwhile, village records show a slew of past problems – with the house passing, then failing, then passing inspections for years, even before the Housing Authority of Cook County approved it as a rental property eligible for government housing assistance money, or Section 8.
An HACC employee said as a landlord, Henyard has received $36,866 in taxpayer dollars in Section 8 rent payments since 2017, when Smith moved in. That money kept coming even after a foreclosure was filed against the house last year.
In the meantime, Dolton taxpayers even helped foot the bill to keep Smith’s family off the streets.
“We thought that the village should be compassionate. She had nowhere to go. She had children,” said Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers. “What we thought was to actually bill trustee Henyard.”
Kozlov learned Monday afternoon that Smith and her kids are now staying with a friend. The village is no longer paying for the hotel, and Smith does not have the money.
Kozlov is still waiting on a list of any citations Trustee Henyard received because of the house.