Updated: Jul 22, 2020
The news has shocked many people in our community.
Kevin Brown has been fired by the City of Evanston for “gross incompetence,” essentially because he used his City-issued credit card to pay for about nine parking tickets, totaling about $800, that members of his team received over the past three years from City parking enforcement, on their City-issued cars, while parked (in visitor-designated spaces, beyond the two-hour time limit) in the Civic Center parking lot during the course of doing City business.
According to Brown, the practice of voiding parking tickets issued to City vehicles, or paying for them with City credit cards, has been a long-standing practice within the Parks and Recreation Department and was condoned and approved by senior staff. He also says many other City vehicles park in those spots.
Until it wasn’t.
On Oct. 31, the day before he was scheduled to go on approved family leave to care for his mother who is recovering from breast cancer, Brown was called in and told he needed to sign a statement acknowledging that he had violated policy by paying for the handful of tickets on his department-issued credit card over a three year period.
Brown refused to sign the statement, saying -- as his employees agree -- that he had followed standard practice and had done nothing wrong.
When he failed to sign the statement by today's deadline, city officials notified him of his termination.
Porschia Davis, a former member of the Youth and Young Adult Division, said in an email yesterday, "I am appalled, to say the least, by this, and quite frankly outraged at these false allegations."
Earlier this evening, I talked to YYA Program Director Nathan Norman, who was working an event with youth at Family Focus Evanston.
“Mr. Brown is being wrongly discriminated against," Norman said. "We’ve had real situations at summer camps where managers were truly not supervising their staff, and I feel like that rises to the level of gross incompetence. What Mr. Brown is being accused of is minuscule at best and moreover it’s not true."
This discipline against Brown by the City for his alleged infractions—even if true—seems akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
Brown believes it is retaliation.
"I have been under such attack by certain senior staff in the city since almost the day I arrived in February 2012," Brown told me. "Part of it stems from me being outspoken person on equity, race, racism, and justice. That bothers certain people."
In an email earlier today, Gail Schechter, who has worked with Brown and his team on the Kingian Nonviolence approach to conflict resolution, said, "There is no doubt in my mind that these allegations are just a pretext for the City's overall desire to terminate Kevin's employment. Last year, the City nearly dissolved the whole Youth and Young Adult Division."
I spoke to Brown at length this morning. He said is determined to fight this decision. He has 10 days to appeal and, he said, he plans to do so.
City officials did not respond to requests for comment from Dear Evanston. Earlier, they told the Evanston RoundTable they could not talk about the case.
Since 2012 when the Youth and Young Adult Division was established, Brown's staff has grown from two to nine. Six staff members are Black, one is Latinx, and one is of Arab descent, according to Brown.
The team has worked tirelessly to promote peace, prevent violence, and support the highest at-risk youth and their families through job training and employment,
securing housing and healthcare, youth mentoring, criminal record expungement and sealing, and more.
The outreach workers have received numerous rewards and recognition over the years.
In a Facebook post earlier tonight, Brown wrote that he was exploring “all legal actions” over what he called an “unjust and unlawful action,” and encouraged supporters to attend the upcoming City Council meeting Monday night to voice their support.
You can also protest this decision by emailing Mayor Steve Hagerty, members of City Council, and Interim City Manager Erika Storlie.
This weekend, I'll post my interview with Brown from Friday morning.