Kevin Brown, Community Services Manager who heads the City’s highly-regarded Youth and Young Adult program, has been placed on administrative leave and could face stronger discipline, possibly leading to termination, Mr. Brown told supporters in an e-mail message Nov. 14.
Mr. Brown, in his email to supporters, said that allegations brought by the City in the case involve use of a City credit card to pay for parking tickets issued to City of Evanston vehicles or staff vehicles displaying a City of Evanston business placard in the City of Evanston Civic Center lot, 2100 N. Ridge Ave.
He said he received notice from Lawrence Hemingway, the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, that he was being placed on administrative leave effective Oct. 31.
Shawn Jones, the attorney for Mr. Brown, filed an appeal following a Nov. 12 pre-disciplinary hearing with City, maintaining that all the transactions were signed off by senior managers above Mr. Brown, according to a letter attached to one of Mr. Brown’s emails.
Further, “the discipline is far out of line with the alleged infractions,” Mr. Jones said in the letter.
Asked about the case Nov. 15, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie cited policy, precluding her from discussing a personnel matter.
In general, Ms. Storlie explained that officials follow a process in disciplinary matters, giving both sides a chance to weigh in.
Once both sides weigh in, a determination is made, said Ms. Storlie, indicating that point has not been reached in Mr. Brown’s case.
The City allegation maintains that despite instructions from Mr. Brown’s supervisors, his staff continued to park in restricted areas and incurred parking tickets, which Mr. Brown allegedly paid off through the City credit card – behavior which the City complaint described as “a blatant and purposeful disregard for City policies.”
Mr. Brown, in his response, said the allegations in the complaint took place over a three-year period. He maintained it was standard practice for many years in the City’s Recreation Department to either get tickets voided or paid with a City credit card when City vehicles were ticketed in the Civic Center parking lot.
He further maintained that he did not have approval authority over credit card transactions and that all the transactions were authorized and approved by senior managers at the City with approval authority.
Responding to the complaint outlined in a City memorandum Nov. 12, Mr. Jones noted that the City credit card was allegedly used on nine occasions during 2017, 2018 and 2019 to pay City-levied fines.
“Contrary to the allegations in the November 12 memorandum, an average of three tickets per calendar year is not “repeated and blatant,” not “in consistent violation,” and not “blatant disregard” of City policies,” Mr. Jones said, in the letter attached to Mr. Brown’s e-mail.
In the letter, he noted that tickets were issued on only three days in calendar year 2019 – March 7, March 26, and June 26.
“It is clear there is something underlying the proposed discipline other than parking, particularly given the sporadic nature of the alleged violations spread out over a three-year period,” wrote Mr. Jones, a former reporter for the RoundTable. “Also, the timing of this discipline raises serious questions about the motivation behind it. Mr. Brown will shortly shift from the Parks and Recreation Department to the Health Department, and this discipline looks and feels like a final effort to punish him on his way out the door. With June being the most recent parking ticket at issue, and the fact the proposed discipline was issued on the last day of October, the timing becomes even more problematic.”
In 2012, Mr. Brown was hired as the City’s first Youth and Young Adult Program Manager.
The Youth and Young Adult Division works with higher at risk youths and their families, assisting them in finding employment, substance abuse treatment, and criminal records expungement.
The Division has seen significant gains in their field, including a 219% decline in arrests for 16-to-24 year olds from 2012 to 2016, Mr. Brown recently reported.