Aldermen, residents discuss censure of city clerk at council meeting


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

City clerk Devon Reid. Aldermen voted to table a resolution to censure Reid, after several city officials alleged that Reid harassed and threatened them.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Summer Managing Editor

During Monday’s council meeting, Evanston residents expressed concern over the potential censure of city clerk Devon Reid after a number of city officials filed complaints against him, alleging he violated the city’s Healthy Work Environment Policy.

About a half dozen complaints were filed by multiple city employees who said Reid had “harassed, threatened and retaliated” against them, according to Mayor Steve Hagerty. Hagerty said he was unable to disclose specific complaints and findings. Two of those complaints were sustained after an investigation by an outside agency. Reid also allegedly violated the Open Meetings Act, as well as council rules regarding closed session recordings.

In the end, the council tabled the resolution to censure Reid with a 5-4 vote — Alds. Judy Fiske (1st), Melissa Wynne (3rd), Donald Wilson (4th) and Eleanor Revelle (7th) voted in the minority. The resolution will be brought up again at a future meeting.

Wynne spoke against the decision of her peers near the end of the meeting, saying censuring the clerk was necessary. The consequences associated with Reid’s censure could range from a simple verbal reprimand to termination.

“On the council, we have a duty to protect every single person who works for the city of Evanston, and the only recourse that we have with our peers is censure,” Wynne said. “I want to let the city staff know that I believe them when they come forward and say they’ve been harassed, they’ve been retaliated against, they feel they don’t work in a safe environment.”

Many residents argued during public comment that a double standard is being applied against Reid and said the censure was racially motivated. Several of them mentioned similar alleged violations in recent years by Hagerty, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) — none of whom were censured.

Misty Witenberg, a 5th ward resident and former candidate for alderman, said Hagerty should hold himself to the same standard that he is holding Reid.

“Mayor Hagerty has… been made aware by me and by other people, with evidence, of other staff and officials breaking municipal law, breaking rules, and he so far has not taken any steps,” Witenberg said.

Residents also mentioned the city’s lack of transparency. News of the possible censure was not made public until last Friday, so many residents did not have time to prepare their comments.

Reid said he was made aware of the allegations about a month ago, well after they were filed.

“No information has been released regarding the details of the allegations against me,” Reid said. “This resolution is an overt and baseless attempt to slander my name. While the mayor may claim privacy of personnel records, the details regarding allegations of my violating the Open Meetings Act should be provided to the public.”

Reid said his alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act was based on his recording of a 13-minute executive session. The recording device was not turned off and kept recording for 111 hours of Reid’s home life. He said a personal conversation with his partner 91 hours into the recording was used as the basis for the allegations.

Hagerty clarified that the findings of the investigation have little to do with the recording, which focused on the Open Meetings Act rather than Reid’s alleged harassment of city officials.

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