Ford Heights village assets frozen, paychecks stalled

FORD HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- There's a financial crisis in south suburban Ford Heights, and it's so bad that a lot of people aren't getting their paychecks on time.

The word went out in a two-sentence letter citing a "financial crisis" for the delay in payroll Thursday. The letter is now posted at the entrance to the Ford Heights Village Hall.

On Thursday, Mayor Annie Coulter said she hoped paychecks would go out Friday. But Friday, the Mayor's assistant said the paychecks would continue to be delayed.

"Unfortunately, we are not able to make payroll today," said the mayor's assistant and daughter, Sheta Coulter. "So our village employees won't receive a paycheck."

Some 40 firefighters, public works employees and other village workers are in limbo.

"The whole... everybody, employees, including me," Coulter said are among the unpaid. She clarified that she is also not receiving her paycheck.

Mayor Coulter, who is less than two weeks into the job, said more than $200,000 in village assets have been frozen as the result of a court judgement from a lawsuit brought years ago against the now-defunct police department.

The mayor declined to discuss details of the lawsuit. Since 2008, the Cook County Sheriff's Department has been in charge of the village's law enforcement.

The mayor is now scrambling to find emergency funds.

"I just want to let the people know that I am working hard, because everybody needs their paycheck to pay their bills," Coulter said.

Ford Heights, population 2,500, is one of the poorest communities in the country. Last year, water to residents was nearly cut off after the village failed to meet its bills.

But despite the financial hardship, Mayor Coulter insists the village is not going belly-up.

"It's just bad management, simple as that," said Pastor Ladell Jones, a former mayoral candidate.

Jones is calling for an independent auditor to look at the village's finances.
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