Maywood Power Couple Presides Over Municipal Mess

They may not be solely to blame for the village’s problems, but in many ways, the Yarbroughs seem more interested in their own family and political fortunes than in governing and helping their town.

Maywood’s financial record-keeping has been so poor in recent years, it’s difficult to determine where all of the tax money ended up. Its police department, though small in size, has had staggering problems with corruption within the ranks (aside from difficulties in solving the Tom Wood murder case), and development projects aimed at revitalizing the community’s hollowed economy have routinely withered.

Presiding over the dysfunctional town is the political power couple of Maywood: Mayor Henderson Yarbrough and his wife, state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, the Democratic Party nominee for Cook County Recorder of Deeds in the November election.

They may not be solely to blame for the village’s problems—which began decades ago, spurred in part by a manufacturing meltdown in the 1970s—but in many ways, the Yarbroughs seem more interested in keeping their family and political fortunes flush than in helping the 24,000 residents of the mostly black, working-class western suburb. Below, some examples of the Yarbroughs’ questionable dealings:

+ As the Better Government Association and FOX Chicago detailed last fall, Karen Yarbrough’s private company secured insurance business on a Maywood senior citizen redevelopment project that she earlier had advocated for as a legislator. The project has since stalled.

+ Sharlene Estelle, Karen’s sister who also runs an insurance company, ended up with the insurance policy on a grocery store in town—after her brother-in-law, the mayor, pushed through $3.25 million in taxpayer subsidies for the developers. The grocer later went under.

+ In recent years, the Yarbroughs and former Maywood Village Manager Jason Ervin, now a Chicago alderman, have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from municipal vendors and employees, and at least some of the money was solicited.

+ Mayor Yarbrough has shown no aversion to promoting those loyal to him, including Police Chief Tim Curry, who had little high-level command experience but was appointed to his post in 2009 after campaigning for the mayor.

If the Yarbroughs’ political campaign funds are packed with cash, village coffers aren’t.

The village government has been so far behind on paying bills that at times, Maywood cops have been turned away at the pump while trying to fuel up their squad cars, the BGA reported last year.

Like other governmental agencies, the village is required by law to file financial reports and other documents each year with the Illinois comptroller. But the village is “delinquent” by at least two years, officials said. A spokesman for the comptroller’s office said the agency “has been working with Maywood to bring it into compliance.”

Maywood’s current village manager, Bill Barlow, emphasized that poor record-keeping should not be equated with missing money.

Neither Henderson Yarbrough nor his wife returned phone calls requesting comment.



2 years ago
Posted by Maywoodian

Kudo's to Chicago Magazine for coverage of a town I thought would never see their pages. Tom's shooting happend very close to my home, in a very stable and historic part of Maywood.

As a Maywood Resident, I can speak to the mountainous pile up of unanswered questions that many of us have. It's not like living in Maywood is inexpensive. Taxes are very high, and services are not in line with that fact. Everything from Village government to the School district is crying broke, despite high municipal revenues per household. It would be great to see other State and Federal agencies, other than our beloved BGA, do their job and audit the town's books (anybody at Lisa Madigan's office reading this?). If their is corruption, it goes very high up the political chain and no one has looked into it for decades from outside of Proviso Township. The article speaks for itself. The village manager, Jason Erving, was APPOINTED as alderman by outgoing Daley. That suggest that there are very connected politics at play. It's not like Daley was handing out appointments based on merit! Jason's term was mired in economic missteps.

All this said, Chicago Mag, I would love to see more balanced coverage. The people of Maywood are a great citizens. Many resident activist have been working tirelessly to restore the town's very rich historic architecture, and have effectively managed to cushion the vacant building crisis that has emerged form the economic meltdown. Despite the town's troubled politics, it's a great town to call home. Hopefully we can get help to resolve the open issues and move past this one day. Thank you for bringing attention to pervasive long standing questions, but don't make us who are trying to effect positive change work uphill.

2 years ago
Posted by flash888

Amen! Way to go BGA. So the truth unfolds. It's about time the civilians of Maywood adhere the truth. They are entitled to that. Evidently, the Yarbrough’s and several others pay to play. Sadly, they propose no support to their very own people whereas relieving your own people out of the slums appears not of interest or concern. What an embarrassing disgrace. BTW- Leave the police department out it! After reading these articles, tragically those poor officers risk their lives everyday for the suffering that you “defiant elected officials” continue to breed/produce. A dog is by far more loyal and that’s without training. These articles remind me of the Hurricane Katrina whereas the citizens of Louisiana “The Super Dome” became trapped with no help or relief for several days. In Maywood’s case- for several years. The citizens of Maywood are in a dome with no economical relief. With years to come these articles conclude how Maywood’s “defiant elected officials” will continue benefitting themselves by abusing their powers of the community. Instead of making officers drive trustees to the airport for security purposes as shown on the news a few months ago (I guess defiant officials some how some way became famous celebrities overnight) what they should have been doing was setting up a fundraiser for Tom Wood’s Reward instead of taking trips that regard unrelated business matters. Six long years have gone by and not one of these village individuals processed a thought of compassion in the behalf of Tom Wood to accumulate funds for the sake of their fallen officer. Here comes the BGA in 2012 and now they want to put on their performance gear.

2 years ago
Posted by another Maywood Resident

Another Maywood Resident.......

Thank you Chicago Magazine and BGA / Fox for the coverage. There are those in the town who have said they did not care for it because it displayed the town's dirty laundry. It's an attitude that seems to plague towns where the leadership is black and to a lesser degree Hispanic. I say hog wash! Corruption where ever it exists, regardless of color, needs and should be rooted out.

I am left with the thought: is this due to political influence, racism or class, that authorities such as Judy Bar Topinka and Anita Alvarez are not compelled to do their jobs? Their offices seem to be unconcerned about the long suffering plight of a majority - minority municipality. If this were River Forest or No. Riverside (their towns) would they tolerate this type of abuse, neglect and illegal behavior?! You show me a town where crime exists and I will show you a town where the police are crooks and the administration is corrupt!

• Who allows the president of a town to vote on an economic development project (e.g.; the grocery store and the Baptist Retirement Home) that personally benefits him and his family?!

• Who allows a trustee of a town to vote on police fire and pension issues when they personally benefit?!

• In a town of 24,000, why is there a law firm paid in the millions of dollars?

• The people of the town voted to consolidate all parks into the existing Maywood Park District (separate tax district) and to convey all buildings and land immediately; 4 years and waiting!

• $1million dollars later we still have an unfinished Park District Building with no indication when, if ever, it will be open!

• How does a local HUD sponsored housing agency (with board members appointed by the Mayor of the Village of Maywood) guilty of corruption, resulting in the termination of the Executive Director for thousands of dollars in theft, still exist and not be taken over by HUD?!

• Why has there been no annual report regarding the use of Tiff Funds?

The hard working citizens of this town deserve better.

2 years ago
Posted by Vince Wise

I still live in maywood, now its over 50 years im here.
the town has had problems over the years, but not like this.
maywoods residents, must stop posting lawn signs in yards
where they live just because others do, or there friends do, or because they are afraid of what will the people running
for the public office, or position will do somthing to them,
the fact is we are letting the people running this town destroy
what our family worked for, we are letting the corruption, that our village officals and the people who are suppose to keep
our people honest, destroy our childrens futers, and our childrens- children !!!!!!!!!!!
we must get rid of the law firm maywood uses, and we must get new blood running our town !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

more to come, i must go to work now so i can pay my $9800.00
property tax bill, to pay for all the failed T.I.F. projects
i wonder where all of the moneys went
i think the village has ben pulling wool over our eyes !

2 years ago
Posted by Vince Wise

just another nugget for people to look at,

the Mayor, Clerk, New manager, and village board members, and the Lawyer from the out side law firm - that the village pays big big bucks to / voted in a 4 percent property levy in the last 6 to 7 months
now trying to look good, the mayor Mr. Henderson Yarbrough, and all of his hounest crew, held a work shop to help people protest
property tax bills !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
first of all the tax bill is because of what they are doing, now they
want to win favor for the up-comming election !
will we all still vote in this crew?
sad but most people will as they just go along with what they are forced- fed !!!!! { well im fed up with this crew } time for new people

2 years ago
Posted by another Maywood Resident

no budget submitted to the state and the people in this town for the last 4 years!

2 years ago
Posted by Nicole Gooden

HELLO EVERYONE! All these statements are pretty accurate. BUT we need to become more vocal in our community. The change will come when we all say that we have had enough. There is always power in numbers. We allow a small few decide for the entire Village. With over 20,000 citizens and a little over 3,000 people came out to vote in the LAST Mayoral election.

2 years ago
Posted by Vince Wise

MAYWOOD - BUDGET .... HA HA HA, {Water Slush Fund }

if maywood had or followed a budget, the town would not be this far gone!

we pay for people to be in charge of parks, but dont run any parks or reacreation programs, no moneys to fix the pool
no moneys to fix and repair and maintan parks building and grounds
but the town still pays 2 people to over see and run the parks
{ still with no programs for kids in the local parks }
i thank god for pastor John Yi of for hosting
vacation bible school programs at the parks all over maywood
< it would be nice if other pastors would do the same in town >
all the churchs in town & all the parks but no love for our youth
GOD Please Help Us - we have lost our way

its also funny how our public works department streets department
cant empty trash cans all over town all week, just sitting around in trucks, i remember seeing a couch on the back of one of the larger trucks with workers sitting on the couch in back while they just drove around town doing nothing, and this is the kicker on the w/e saturdays they get golden time to run the street sweeper or cut some empty lots ar a park

our tax dollars hard at work !!!!
lets open more golf putting joints, more markets, rehab more buildings, while raising property taxes, not paying for our water, or trash vendor / then have more town hall work shops to teach people how to protest taxes

TIFF Tiff Tiff

2 years ago
Posted by ladeira9

Why is it that SO MANY commenters can't spell OR
utilize proper English grammar? I surf the web regularly
and find this "rush to post, never mind accuracy or fairness"
almost everywhere I go. It's a pity more haven't cared to pay attention in school.

I'm also disappointed in Chicago Magazine, which would in past
decades never have lingered on the psychic angle in slain Officer Wood's story. The world of the paranormal has still not achieved acceptance in most serious circles; we need straight, verifiable
news we can use, not infotainment disguised as human interest.

Some of the criticisms of Maywood seem a bit gratuitous: out here in Chicago's Near West suburbs, budget auditing/reporting is overdue consistently in more than one village, I have personally observed. Maywood's Park District is an independent entity, the Village of Maywood having no legal authority over its (MPD's)
parks, whose officials are elected to SIX YEAR terms. It IS time to blame whoever enacted that folly.

Other missteps are controversial, but I think they're more mistakes than intended corruption. There are indeed lovely people
I am proud to know residing in Maywood, who deserve a break.
There are also certain staff employees who would improve village
life by resigning, but as I no longer live in Maywood, I've lost my standing. (My village isn't perfect either, and neither is anyone else's.)

2 years ago
Posted by Vince Wise

I'm sorry for my unsatisfactory spelling,and improper English grammar, I attended Maywood Schools and Did-Not go to collage.
"I did trade school" yes i'm a blue collar worker, not a school

As for Chicago magazine, I'm happy they did the story about Officer Woods, the paranormal side of the story was just reporting
on what his Widows hopes are, Just Her looking for A miracle, after all not much help from Maywoods Finest !
" I wonder why people dont want to find Woods Killer? "

As for the budget auditing report, I'm sure that other Villages
budget auditing reports are late from time to time,
But Maywood is 4 years late, still with no report from the first year of the 4 years

MPD's " The park district is run like Enron was......
Lots Of Smoke And Mirrors


" I think someone is pulling Wool over our eyes !!!!! "

2 years ago
Posted by Frustrated Resident

Item #1 Old Baptist Retirement Home
If you vote to give a benefit to someone that is benefiting you, such as insurance (for an example; an insurance co previously owned at the time of the vote (s) by some one in your house)provided on a property,you benefit and this is a conflict of interest. In other words you have a financial interest in a project whose vote benefits you.

Item #2 Maywood Market
Regarding the failed grocery store; how/why does a newly formed development company (called Dee Development)receive a contract to construct and pave a parking lot (and is paid a total of $310,000 in four separate installments/checks) cash the checks at the Devon/Peterson Currency Exchange and no one thinks this is unusual?!

As pointed out by Andy Shaw, in an interview of the state rep, your sister in her own words stated she benefited financially (greatly) through sale of business insurance to the business. It seems like an insider connection to me.

2 years ago
Posted by Vince Wise

Re) Maywood Markets parking lot, and storm draings in the Markets
parking lot.

If in fact the parking lot work of Maywood Market was do by a
company by the name of Dee Development I dont remember seeing
any other company working on Maywood Markets parking lot other
then A Lamp road builders.

this could be the reason why the four seperate checks were cashed
at the Devon/Peterson currency Exchange!

I remember this well because the store was late opening, and the lot was being done by Lamp
"I wonder where the $310,000 went to because, big Development companys, dont cash checks of huge amounts at currency exchanges,

unless Dee Development subcontracted the job to Lamp, but if this was the case, why would the checks be cashed at a currency exchange, Lamp is a big enough company to have bank accounts

mabey Dee Development is the same company that has been starting the rehab and stoping the rehab for the last 14 years at the rec.
building on 9th and Madison
here we are again on the parks - rec buildings

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