We are extremely disappointed with the decision made by Interim City Manager Erika Storlie to deny the appeal of Kevin Brown’s termination as Community Services Manager for the City of Evanston, and decision reached after hours Thursday, December 12. This is a sad day for Evanston, a day that reveals deeper, more troubling concerns for the community we deeply love. The community must now determine whether Ms. Storlie has failed the test of leadership.
The disconnect between the current government and the people that government serves and represents continues to grow, with no signs of closing. Anyone observing weekly meetings sees it regularly. In this case, a sitting municipal court judge, a pastor at one of Evanston’s oldest and most historic African American churches, local school district employees, university officials, nonprofit leaders, students and athletic coaches at Evanston Township High School, and ordinary residents, over and over again gave testimonies in support of Kevin Brown’s leadership, and the fine work he did as the Community Services Manager over the past eight years. Even the impassioned plea from former Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl fell on deaf ears. In addition to these public testimonies, hundreds of residents emailed the interim City Manager, the Mayor and Aldermanic officials. The City government, represented by the singular figure of the Interim City Manager Erika Storlie, could not be budged from her hard line, disproportionate, and devastating disciplinary stance. Termination.
A reminder: The parking at issue was not Mr. Brown’s – rather, he was acting in support of his talented and engaged staff of youth advocates. Nothing in any of the termination papers, and nothing in Mr. Brown’s personnel file on the whole, ever refers, mentions, or even hints at a personal benefit obtained by Mr. Brown himself. Each and every allegation instead accuses Mr. Brown of standing up for his staff when they received parking tickets from City of Evanston parking officers for parking City of Evanston owned vehicles (or their personal vehicles displaying City of Evanston official business hangers) in the City of Evanston Civic Center parking lot. Mr. Brown terminated for his staff’s parking tickets?
The City argues that Mr. Brown was “repeatedly” warned to stop his staff from parking in visitor spots. These warnings consisted of three emails over a roughly 24-month period between 2017 and 2019. Three emails. Never once did City staff call a meeting, or claim to have picked up the phone, or pulled Mr. Brown aside to talk to him or any of his staff. No. Instead, we have just a few emails – and then termination.
As an employment at will entity, the City may fire anyone at any time for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all – so long as the reason is not a discriminatory reason. We believe that Mr. Brown’s termination was based on illegal retaliation and discrimination and as such warrants independent investigation. In furtherance of that belief, Mr. Brown will immediately file official charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). We are confident that Mr. Brown will succeed in this next course of action.
Thank you to the public and community leaders for all the support Mr. Brown has received since discipline was first announced on October 31. Your kind words and heartfelt testimonials touched and inspired. Please know this story is not over, we are just moving on to the next chapter.
Shawn Jones, Attorney for Kevin Brown