Thursday, November 16, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 11/17/17
In 2015, when the Maywood Park District’s 5-person Board of Commissioners voted to replace the district’s attorney, Dalal M. Jarad, with Steven A. Hinton, commissioners Terrance Jones and Dawn Williams-Rone were in the minority.
Several months after the April election brought a new commissioner, John Rice, on board, Jarad is back in and Hinton is out. During a regular meeting on Nov. 14, the commission voted 3-2 to terminate Hinton’s at-will contract in order to bring on Jarad.
Commissioners Williams-Rone, Jones and Rice voted for the switch in legal representation while Commissioners Bill Hampton and Arnettra Burnside vote against the switch.
Williams-Rone said that she supported bringing Jarad back for the same reasons she and Jones protested her termination in 2015.
Williams-Rone said that, back then, the board had abruptly decided to replace Jarad, an experienced municipal attorney with park district expertise and who had been in the middle of important work at the district, with Hinton, who had comparatively little municipal experience.
The two commissioners added that, in 2015, the decision to remove Jarad had been made by their board colleagues in relative secrecy, without Jones and Williams-Rone being consulted.
At the time, Williams-Rone and Jones also argued that the move would’ve come at a cost. Jarad’s contract, they said back then, only included an hourly fee. Hinton’s contract included an hourly fee in addition to a retainer fee, which could be costlier over the long term.
Hampton, who is the only commissioner currently on the board who voted to hire Hinton, said that he supported the replacement back in 2015 because he wanted the district to be represented by an attorney with local ties and who could also be a positive African American male presence.
Hinton lives in Forest Park and has his practice in Maywood. Jarad’s practice is based in Schaumburg.
So far, the park district hasn’t confirmed whether or not Hinton’s fees have, in fact, been costlier than Jarad’s since he was hired two years ago. And all of the commissioners who were recently interviewed said that they were satisfied with Hinton’s performance.
At the Nov. 14 meeting where the decision to replace Hinton with Jarad was made, roughly a dozen people, including Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) and Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th), expressed support for Hinton. Boykin and Davis sent in letters that were read by representatives.
Rory Hoskins, a former Forest Park commissioner (the first African American elected to that position), showed up in person to offer his support for Hinton, who Hoskins called a personal friend.
“Unless Steve had committed some serious error that exposed the park district to some kind of risk, then they shouldn’t terminate him,” Hoskins said in a Nov. 16 phone interview.
“Steve is a local attorney and he’s invested in the community,” Hoskins added. “He’s a Forest Park resident, he coaches sports at his children’s school, he supports charities in our area and he’s just a real part of our community.”
Community member Martha Allen, echoing Hampton’s views, also showed up to express support for Hinton.
“Professional people in the community are very important to our black children,” Allen said. “If you have black professionals in the community they have someone to look up to and set a good example. Too many of our children end up in trouble. When you have positive black images they seem to do better.”
Maywood resident Quincy Johnson said that “it is extremely disappointing that in 2017, by the board’s own admission, a perfectly competent attorney who happens to be African American was dismissed for no reason I can conceive of other than some other agenda.”
Hampton said that his support for Hinton “was nothing personal” against Jarad; rather, the commissioner added, he believes that Hinton is “a good inspiration for our young black men and he has a good record.”
Williams-Rone said that the issue isn’t personal for her either. Citing Jarad’s municipal and park district experience, Williams-Rone said that the park district “is moving in a different direction,” adding that Jarad’s contract will be based on an hourly rate, as before.
Dalal and Jarad could not be reached for comment. VFP