TINLEY PARK, IL. (ECWd) –
Correction in second paragraph-
Tinley Park resident Christy Heins appeared before 12th Circuit Court Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre on 3/7/16, and although the order of protection was not granted, Heins was verbally directed to stop harassing and to stay clear and stay away from freelance reporter Megan Fox, who has been filming an exposé of corruption in the Planning Department of the Village of Tinley Park.
Since early February, Heins has been harassing Fox and trying to intimidate her into not reporting on an unfolding investigation into apparent wrongdoing by Village of Tinley Park Planning Department employees who appear to have improperly colluded with the Columbus, Ohio-based Buckeye Community Hope Foundation to alter zoning codes to benefit Buckeye. Fox was the first reporter to accurately cover this story and Heins aggressively attacked Fox to silence her, including harassing Fox on 2/16/16 after a Board Meeting and filing a false police report against Fox on 2/17/16.
Heins runs the “Real Residents of Tinley Park” Facebook group, which is a closed and “secret” group on Facebook that has been committed to undermining efforts to expose the corruption in Tinley Park government. The “Real Residents” have aggressively attacked Fox and have attempted to derail the popular documentary she is filming on the Buckeye Housing Project Scandal, which is up to episode 38 at this time.
Former Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki and many of his old guard cronies are members of the “Real Residents” group. Zabrocki ruled over Tinley Park for around 30 years, before resigning suddenly for health reasons in the spring of 2015. The timing on this is interesting because shortly after that the Buckeye Housing Project Scandal appears to have taken root in the Village of Tinley Park Planning Department, where much like a mustard seed in a parable the influence of Buckeye spread and metastasized into the scandal that Fox has been reporting on in her documentary.
Longtime observers of Tinley Park politics question the actions of the old guard remnants of the Zabrocki regime and are suspicious of how much help Planning Department employees gave to Buckeye behind the scenes to push this low-income housing project through against the wishes of Tinley Park citizens. You can read more about the unfolding scandal here, as citizen sleuths in Tinley Park have taken it upon themselves to attend Village Board meetings in droves (with 1,000 showing up to the 3/1/16 meeting alone) and Freedom of Information Act requests made to the Village have uncovered emails and other documents revealing what many believe to be improper collusion between Buckeye and the Planning Department employees to manipulate zoning code for Buckeye’s benefit.
Because this scandal seems to hinge on complicated maneuvering by the Planning Department and Buckeye to strategically alter the zoning code from “commercial required” to “commercial allowed” to create a loophole for the low-income housing project to be pushed through, Megan Fox’s ongoing documentary is vital to informing the public about all of the twists and turns involved in the scandal. It is in the interests of Village employees and Zabrocki’s cronies to prevent the public from ever understanding what the Village was up to with the zoning code alterations.
Interviews Fox has conducted with local experts on the situation and videos she posts to YouTube for her documentary break down all of the machinations that Planning Department employees undertook that many are now arguing violated the Open Meetings Act as it applied to changing the wording of a text amendment to the Village’s Legacy Code in August and September 2015, which then opened the door to Buckeye forcing this unwanted housing project on Tinley Park citizens.
The “Real Residents” Facebook group appears to many to just be an astroturfed tool intent on discouraging further investigation into the Planning Department and its Director Amy Connolly, who is on administrative leave pending an investigation into her involvement in the scandal. The “Real Residents” group regularly attacks the citizens of Tinley Park who have most vocally criticized the Village and who have been uncovering evidence of wrongdoing in the Planning Department and Village Hall. The only entities that benefit from the Real Residents’ efforts to shut down Megan Fox’s documentary are Village employees and Zabrocki cronies who do not want the public to understand what the Village has been doing wrong and why that text amendment (and the potential OMA violations it entailed with its passage) matters so much. Tinley Park citizens should question the agenda and motives of anyone who ever tries to stop watchdogs, citizen sleuths, or reporters like Fox from exposing corruption.
In February, Christy Heins was warned by the Tinley Park Police Department to stop harassing Megan Fox and was cautioned that Fox is a freelance reporter who is making a documentary with interviews of Tinley Park citizens that she films at public meetings and at other events around town. The Cook County Sheriff’s office also cautioned Heins in February to stop harassing Fox. Heins refused to stop her harassment, which is what summoned her to the Will County Courthouse in Joliet at 9:30 am on 3/7/16.
In open court, Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre admonished “Real Residents of Tinley Park” founder Christy Heins and told her in no uncertain terms that she must stop harassing Megan Fox. Judge Colon-Sayre ordered Heins to stay clear and stay away from Fox at all future board meetings or other events. Heins was cautioned that her behavior towards Fox was unacceptable and that Fox has the right to continue her work as a reporter covering this story.
The false police report that Heins made against Fox on 2/17/16 was entered into evidence with the Court. Fox’s attorney argued that it showed malicious intent on the part of Heins to strategically harm Fox by using the police as a weapon against Fox and, thus, scare her off this story that Heins and the “Real Residents” group do not want Fox reporting on. Fox’s attorney made the argument that Heins needed to be ordered by the Court to stay away from Fox to protect Fox’s personal liberty and constitutional rights as a reporter.
After being so ordered to cease this harassment of Megan Fox and to stay away and stay clear of her, it seems that if Christy Heins should elect to instead continue her harassment the consequences would be severe and this matter would likely be kicked towards criminal proceedings that would carry permanent consequences for Heins in the judicial system. Any further malicious actions by Heins against Fox would likely be taken up by Judge Colon-Sayre in the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, where Heins would face becoming the subject of a no-stalking/no-contact edict if she disobeyed the Judge’s order of 3/7/16.
Heins appeared sober and chastened in the courtroom and nodded her head in understanding as Judge Colon-Sayre ordered her to cease the harassment she had been directing at Fox. Heins stated on the record that she understood the Judge’s order and that she promised to leave Fox alone from now on.
Everyone involved hopes this will be the end of the matter and that Christy Heins and her “Real Residents” group will no longer engage in any attempts to silence Megan Fox as a freelance reporter or interfere with the continuation of her documentary series.
Please consider a donation to the Edgar County Watchdogs.