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Fired Community Services Manager files EEOC and IDHR charges

At the end of the day last Thursday, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie denied the appeal of Kevin L. Brown's termination as Evanston's Community Services Manager.

Today, Brown and his attorney Shawn Jones responded with a news release announcing that Brown will immediately file official charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).

"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," Jones says in the release.

"We believe that Mr. Brown's termination was based on illegal retaliation and discrimination and as such warrants independent investigation. We are confident that Mr. Brown will succeed in this next course of action."

The parking at issue, the release says, was not Brown’s – but that he was acting in support of 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," Jones says in the release.

"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?"

According to the release, the City argued that 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," the release says.

The disconnect between the current government and the people that government serves and represents continues to grow, with no signs of closing, the release says.

"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 (ETHS), 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. 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."

In an email, Gail Schechter, who heads up a group called "Reinstate Kevin Brown," said, "We are profoundly disappointed that most members of the City Council did not acknowledge the public's pleas. Even if they felt they could not comment on a matter they felt was in the City Manager's purview, Council members have not acknowledged very real concerns raised about how the City will direct the Youth and Young Adult Division."

The group, she wrote, is committed to uncovering and addressing the root causes "of what we perceive to be the Evanston city government's unhealthy atmosphere for Black staff leaders over the past few years, with terminations, budget-prompted downsizing and restructuring, harassment, and resignations that are not experienced in comparable measure by white staff leaders."

Rick Marsh, president of the board of Curt's Cafe said he was surprised that despite the fact that more than 100 people over the last three consecutive City Council meetings spoke out for Kevin Brown and his successful program, in additional to emails, calls, petitions, and personal visits, "the Community was not heard or respected enough to receive a dignified response."

As a 35-year Evanston resident, Marsh said, "I am frustrated and angry. In my many decades of community involvement, attending Council meetings, I have never seen such diversity and a united community response on a topic."

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