In July 2020, 56 young women signed a petition informing senior Evanston staff that they had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, assault, and rape as employees of Evanston City beaches. Jennifer Lin is director of Human Resources, and the beaches are overseen by Lawrence Hemingway, the Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. Lin and Hemingway are supervised by Evanston City Manager Erika Storlie.
Faced with these extraordinarily serious allegations, what Storlie, Lin, and Hemingway did not do is far more remarkable than what they did. They did not conduct an investigation into the allegations or supervision failures that may have allowed or failed to detect such misconduct. They did not apologize or offer restitution, therapy, or even an expression of sympathy to the survivors.
It appears that Storlie was invited to participate in meetings with the four young women who presented the petition. Storlie may have known about the existence of the petition, although Storlie claims that no member of her staff showed her the petition.
Neither Storlie, Lin, Hemingway, nor any other Evanston employee informed the elected City Council of the statement of these 56 women. For the following year, City Council and the Evanston community were kept in the dark about the 56 young women’s experience of sexual misconduct. It was not until local public radio station WBEZ released a story that the City staff was forced to finally acknowledge the allegations.
Allegations of sexual abuse have been brushed aside by these same City staff members in the past. In 2019, Porschia Davis, Former Assistant Manager of Youth and Young Adult Services, publicly testified that Lawrence Hemingway had sexually harassed her and other city employees. Under Storlie’s supervision, Lin reportedly conducted some interviews concerning the charges of sexual misconduct against Hemingway. It appears that no action was taken in response to those reports.
In July 2021, Lin was placed on administrative leave for her mishandling of the reports of sexual harassment at the beach.
Presumably with the approval of City Manager Storlie, Evanston City staff issued a statement on July 16. The statement claimed to be “submitted by the City of Evanston.” That claim was false. That statement was not authored, vetted, or approved by any of the 11 elected officials in Evanston City Government. The statement purported to absolve City staff members of their failure to prevent the sexual harassment, abuse, and rape of Parks and Recreation Department employees. It claimed that “the City is confident that the appropriate measures have been implemented to respond to the serious issues raised.”
The staff’s statement excused their own failure to conduct an investigation with the assertion that the survivors had not provided sufficient details. Apparently, staff would place the responsibility for conducting an investigation on seasonal high-school and college-aged employees rather than accepting that responsibility themselves.
The July 16th statement is strong evidence that senior City staff – including Erika Storlie, Lawrence Hemingway, Jennifer Lin – were at best grossly negligent, and at worst engaged in a coverup of serious criminal acts. They must be fired.