City Council to move forward with nationwide search for city manager


In the hours before the City Council meeting Monday, residents held a socially distant car rally in opposition to the appointment of Storlie as the permanent city manager.

Sneha Dey, City Editor

The city will continue with a nationwide search for a city manager, after Evanston City Council withdrew a resolution Monday that would promote Erika Storlie without a public process.

The decision came after community groups the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership, Community Alliance for Better Government and Dear Evanston, as well as several aldermen, argued fast-tracking Storlie undermined the democratic process. 

Prior to the City Council discussion on Monday, Storlie announced she would prefer to go through with the formal recruitment process. 

“I’ve been here for 16 years. I know the public process has been at the core of what Evanston and who Evanston is,” Storlie said. 

In February, the City Council contracted GovHR to conduct a nationwide search and promised residents a transparent, public process. But at the last City Council meeting on May 27, Mayor Steve Hagerty proposed canceling the search and hiring Storlie as soon as possible. 

Hagerty said the city needed a permanent leader amid the crisis and anticipated the applicant pool would be significantly reduced due to COVID-19. The mayor also said he did not feel comfortable with a candidate who would leave their jurisdiction in a time of crisis. 

The community held a rally Monday afternoon opposing the appointment of Storlie without public input. Over 50 residents gathered in their cars outside the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center just hours before the City Council meeting.

The proposal to hire Storlie was not listed on the May 26 City Council Agenda, which the OPAL Board of Directors criticized in a letter to the mayor and City Council.

“Your actions on May 26 not only renege upon your promises but also constitute a serious breach of public trust,” the letter said, which has now garnered over 350 signatures. “We demand that you stop this ill-conceived attempt to circumvent transparency in hiring.”

The letter also brought up concerns with Storlie’s connections to former city manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who she worked under for several years. During Bobkiewicz’ tenure, the city faced several discrimination settlements.

OPAL board member Alex Morgan maintains that Storlie is a robust candidate, but said she should not be the only candidate considered for the city’s top administrative position. 

“This gets at a bigger issue when we talk about hiring in government,” Morgan said. “A lot of times folks get elevated because of who they know…It shuts out highly qualified people who may be a really good fit and may bring a stronger and different perspective to the table.”

For OPAL vice president Oliver Ruff,  an open, transparent process in the city manager search is especially important, given the upcoming aldermanic and national elections. With little known about the officials leading the city in the next term, Ruff  said the community needs to support the new city manager.

Aldermen will discuss how to move forward with the nationwide search at the Rules Committee meeting next Monday. Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) recommended GovHR attend the meeting.

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