I’m sure most of us in Evanston are relieved to have some closure on the sexual misconduct at City lakefront operations. Knowing how these kinds of trauma work their way through survivors’ lives, I would not be surprised if more information surfaces, even years from now. But having read the report (released in Feb. 2022) and the summation by Mayor Biss (March 9, 2022), I think we have a handle on what happened, how it was mishandled by the City, and the way forward (nine recommendations).
Because this has dragged on so long, I have been loath to think or write more. But as an old woman, I think some things were missed. For posterity’s sake, at least, I’d like to document them as succinctly as I can. Many of these things are nuances, but some are big picture or structural.
Here are the basic resources referred to in this blog:
— Report to the City of Evanston Regarding Allegations of Misconduct within the Parks and Recreation Department
by Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter (Feb. 20, 2022)
— Some Thoughts on the Report on Sexual Misconduct at the Lakefront
Mayor Daniel Biss e-Newsletter (March 9, 2022)
— Public trust in Evanston, IL: Sexual harassment complaints buried for years, weeks, days
Blog by Debbie Hillman (Evanston resident), includes my citizen input to the investigators as they began their investigation (August 2021)
There are three findings that I found problematic.
a. While I agree with the finding on p. 51 that “The petition should have been elevated to the City Manager, Corporation Counsel, and Mayor”, the full City Council should have been included in this list.
b. I do not agree with the Executive Summary’s implication that not receiving a copy of the petition (see quote) absolved Mayor Hagerty of any responsibility to do more, e.g.,— alert the full City Council — ask more questions of the residents who contacted him.
p. 3 Steve Hagerty, then Mayor: Hagerty was generally aware of the issues at the lakefront, including that there were allegations of “inappropriate comments” and an “inappropriate” relationship, but was unaware of any allegations of sexual assault. Storlie kept Hagerty updated. There is no evidence that Hagerty ever received a copy of the petition until shown one during our investigation.
Nor did there need to be specific allegations of sexual assault for him to mobilize himself to investigate in more detail (see item #c).
c. The report seems to accept Mayor Hagerty’s statements at face value without questioning him. On p. 52 the investigators say: “Hagerty stated that none of his conversations with Storlie or concerned residents in 2020 in any way hinted at the sorts of serious abuse alleged in the petition.”
But this statement is contradicted by three facts:
— On p. 32 the report states: On August 10, a former lakefront employee emailed Storlie, Hagerty and Abajian about “lakefront grievances.” She wrote that she was “concerned at [their] lack of action surrounding the current petition that is in circulation,” and suggested that the City should consider a “formal acknowledgement of the sexual misconduct.”
“Sexual misconduct” is by definition a “serious” abuse. Also, when a “former” employee takes the time to email three Evanston officials, it’s “serious” — it doesn’t make any difference what “sorts” they are.
— The very fact of the petition (as the term is used in the U.S.) by definition indicates “serious” issues identified by multiple (“serious”!) people.
— The simple fact of multiple conversations between Hagerty and Storlie in 2020 suggests a “serious” situation.
I am disappointed that Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter did not address the deeper disfunctions that may have led to confusion of responsibilities. Some of these I identified in my citizen comment to the investigators in August 2021.
a. Two of my recommendations involve the City Code (more details and explanation are included in my August 2021 blog).
— Recommendation #1:
Update City Code re interlocking duties and powers of City Council, Mayor, City Clerk, and City Manager through a dedicated public process.
CONTEXT: OUTDATED CITY CODE
— Recommendation #2
Evanston should find another word for the office of mayor, in conjunction with updating the City Code per #1. CONTEXT: GENERAL CONFUSION re MUNICIPAL FORMS OF GOVERNMENT: City Manager vs. Strong Mayor
b. Other deeper disfunctions can be identified as:
— Qualifications for Mayor: Mr. Hagerty had no previous elected experience and quickly showed his inexperience in public process soon after taking office, calling an emergency meeting for a non-emergency situation (only the first of many instances of taxpayers paying for on-the-job training for the new mayor).
— Why do residents default to notifying the mayor and not their alderperson? I know that different residents communicate with officials in different ways. Some cc too many officials on their emails. I find it curious that no resident contacted an alderperson. Did anyone contact 311?
I would recommend that the City do some quick-and-dirty educating for residents on protocols for citizen complaints. Recommendation #8 covers tracking employee complaints, but I did not see anything about tracking citizen complaints.
3. POLITICAL CONTEXT
I am disappointed that SPPP did not take into account the political context of the moment:
a. Election season in Evanston began in Sept. 2020 (which I also identified in my August 2021 email). This fact alone should have initiated (a) better fact-finding, especially by the Mayor but including the City Manager, and (b) an alert to the full City Council.
b. City’s increasingly limited resources suggests a possible secondary recommendation: outsource more programming (saving the City time, money, and confusion).
c. Increase in misogyny and male violence against women and girls
d. A growing confusion between sex and gender in popular culture and in the law is impacting women’s rights, safety, and authority. I have written at least three blogs on this subject with Evanston in mind:
— To survivors & other women, “I’m sorry, 20th century feminist strategy was wrong” Oct. 2021
— WORKING THINGS OUT: Gender identity, violence against females, and language confusion in a Chicago-area high school and suburb Nov. 2021
— SPIRITS IN GIRL BODIES: Gender Dysphoria or Raging Feminism — a Baby Boomer’s story Dec. 2021
e. The growing trend in U.S. of electing businesspeople with no elected record or demonstrable qualifications in good public process is undermining good government and public trust.