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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.

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