Flossmoor Community Relations Commission Chair Phillipa Leon-Thompson, right, welcomes members of the public to the commission's meeting on March 25 while student member Eva Mathis and commission member Stephen Ramsey, left, listen. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
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Calls for transparency continue at Flossmoor Community Relations Commission meeting

Flossmoor residents demanding a more complete explanation for the recent firing of Police Chief Jerel Jones spoke out again at the Community Relations Commission meeting Monday, March 25.

The commission convened in the village hall board room because the turnout of 15 to 20 residents would have been a tight fit in the conference room where the board normally meets. A number of residents wished to address the commission. A larger space also accommodated crews from several Chicago television stations.

The call for more transparency began at the March 4 Board of Trustees meeting, when residents packed the room to ask questions about rumors that now former Police Chief Jerel Jones was about to be fired. At the March 18 board meetingtrustees passed a resolution on a spit vote to terminate Jones’ employment after hearing from residents who questioned the move.

Two residents who have started a petition drive demanding transparency, Shana Easterling and Kiana Jones (no relation to Jerel) addressed the commission at the March 28 meeting. Easterling read the petition. Jones offered comments about what their group is asking for and why.


“I understand that there may be sensitive or confidential information involved, but it is essential for the public to have a basic understanding of the reason behind this decision,” she said. “They (village officials) speak of performance issues, disciplinary actions, not meeting expectations that contributed to this decision, all of which are very strong allegations. However, where’s the proof to back this up? We seem to have more questions than answers. 

“As residents, we entrust our local government with the responsibility of upholding the values of transparency, accountability and fairness. By providing us with the necessary information and engaging in open communication, you can help reinforce this trust and demonstrate your commitment to serving the best interest of the community.”

Members of the commission also commented on the police chief situation near the close of the meeting.

Molly Deugaw said that as a human resources professional, she understands the limits of what Mayor Michelle Nelson can reveal without an employee’s permission. 

“I would love transparency. I want to know what I don’t know,” she said. “But she’s in a position where she can’t be transparent.”

Commission member Kevin Dorsey, who has been outspoken in calling for transparency from the village administration, said revealing the facts of the matter is the only way to combat rampant rumors about the reason for Jones’ firing.

“If there was a performance issue that kept us … unsafe, we will stand and support (the decision),” he said. “Not that I don’t want to support Chief Jones, but I don’t want to support anyone who’s not going to do the job.”

Vice Chairwoman Jackie Riffice summarized a letter she sent to the mayor, village manager and trustees. She suggested the situation should be an opportunity to review and improve internal personnel practices. 

“There are things we can do internally to make sure that these things don’t happen,” she said.

Jenny Curtis, a member of the Justice for Madeline Miller group, recalled the commission’s role in advising the mayor and trustees on how best to respond after Miller was killed by Flossmoor police officers in 2022. The commission prepared a report with suggestions for community healing.

She asked if the commission could recommend the village board be more transparent in the case of Jones’ firing.

Commission Chairwoman Phillipa Leon-Thompson stressed during her comments that the commission’s role is to advise the mayor and trustees.

“We will do our part to share these concerns with the mayor, the village manager and the trustees,” she said. “We are ready to provide advice if and when we are asked to do so.”
She and commission member Stephen Ramsey thanked the residents who attended and expressed their views.

“Let me applaud you for your voices. Let me applaud you for being engaged,” Ramsey said. “Flossmoor has changed and some changes need to be made. Let’s start with transparency. The only way that change can happen is that you guys continue to be engaged.”

Prior to the meeting, Mark Wallace of 10x10towin, an organization that advocates for Black voting participation, held a news conference renewing the call for transparency. His organization is supporting an effort by a group of Flossmoor residents who have started a petition drive urging village officials to provide more information about Jones’ firing.

Wallace said after talking with a number of residents over the past month, he believes the community still has more questions than answers about the reasons Jones was fired. 

“They’re just not happy with how the administration has been reluctant to respond to questions,” he said. “All they’re asking for is clear transparency as to what is the real motivation to terminating a chief of police in less than 12 months.” 

The commission also heard from Ashly Giddens, who spoke in opposition to the village’s proposed detention basin near Heather Hill School. The basin would temporarily store water after storms as part of a system upgrade to relieve flooding downtown and in the Berry Lane neighborhood.

“The location poses significant safety concerns for the children who attend the school and use the playground,” she said. “Placing a detention basin near the playground would expose children to the risk of injury, particularly during heavy rain or flooding.”

The Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education is expected to vote on the issue at its April 8 meeting at 6 p.m. in Normandy Village, 41 E. Elmwood Drive, Chicago Heights.

In other business, Riffice reported that the Build a Bed project was no longer feasible. The project, supported by nonprofit organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace, involved volunteers building beds for children who have no bed to sleep in. The Flossmoor Volunteer Fire Department and others raised the money to buy materials.

She said the project had been popular for several years, held in January in conjunction with village’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and the last time Flossmoor participated, volunteers set a state record by building 40 beds in a day. 

However, the process generated a lot of dust, so the commission was looking for a way to hold it outdoors. In the meantime, the cost of participation went up dramatically, Riffice said, more than tripling. 

“We have opted to seek something for a community wide effort and put Sleep in Heavenly Peace to bed, pardon the pun,” Riffice said.

Leon-Thompson said the commission would be glad to receive ideas from residents for other projects. 

Camera operators with Chicago television stations set up their equipment prior to the Community Relations Commission meeting March 25 for a news conference held by Mark Wallace of 10x10 To Win, who is supporting the demand for transparency in the firing of former Police Chief Jerel Jones. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Camera operators with Chicago television stations set up their equipment prior to the Community Relations Commission meeting March 25 for a news conference held by Mark Wallace of 10×10 To Win, who is supporting the demand for transparency in the firing of former Police Chief Jerel Jones. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

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