Decision on Storlie’s separation tabled until Thursday


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Erika Storlie. On Monday, City Council tabled a decision on a separation agreement until later in the week.

Jacob Fulton, Summer Editor

City Council tabled a decision on a separation agreement with City Manager Erika Storlie Monday after community concerns with the proposal and transparency throughout the process.

Storlie, who has served in the role since October 2020, has been with the city since 2004, including as the interim city manager for over a year before her appointment into the permanent position. Her proposed departure was prompted by allegations from lakefront staff of a culture of sexual harassment. The city was informed of the allegations last summer through a petition signed by 56 women, which only became public knowledge in the past month. 

The agreement included 20 weeks’ salary as severance pay and insurance coverage through the end of the year, as well as a clause requiring her participation in an independent investigation of the city’s handling of the allegations. However, another clause in the agreement indicated that the full report summarizing the investigation would remain confidential, which prompted community backlash. 

Members from multiple grassroots organizing groups, including Evanston Fight for Black Lives and the Community Alliance for Better Government, spoke in opposition of the city’s lack of transparency. 

Sebastian Nalls, a former mayoral candidate and current member of CABG, said the confidentiality clause would only create further distrust between residents and elected officials. This issue would be exacerbated, he said, if the city decided against disclosing the contents of the investigation before any results had been delivered.

Furthermore, he said the inclusion of the clause went against campaign talking points the current City Council discussed before members were elected. 

“Please fulfill each and every one of your campaign promises,” Nalls said. “I went through every single one of your campaign websites — we are here in order to preserve transparency and accountability and local government.”

But the clause in Storlie’s severance agreement wasn’t the only reason some attendees criticized the city on a basis of transparency. EFBL organizer Mollie Hartenstein drew parallels between the proposed departure of Storlie and the retirement of former Police Chief Demitrous Cook in early June. 

While Hartenstein said she supported both employees’ exits, the circumstances under which they occurred and the limited public disclosures about discussions leading up to the departures concerned her.

“When they leave under the veil of secrecy, when a city continues to hold information important to citizens to protect itself, there can be no fault, and nothing changes,” Hartenstein said. “Instead of using these resignations as an opportunity for growth and to better reflect the needs of citizens, the city has doubled down on its self-serving and self-righteous behavior.”

To discuss Storlie’s separation agreement, City Council went into executive session, as the matter centered around personnel decisions. After the session concluded, council members unanimously decided the agreement needed further discussion and community input. 

A meeting is now scheduled for Thursday to continue the conversation. 

“There’s a lot to talk through here — there are critical questions at stake,” Mayor Daniel Biss said. “As everyone on this dais knows and believes, a decision of this magnitude that’s made without meaningful public input is enormously risky for our whole community.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton

Related stories:

Storlie may step down as city manager following allegations of sexual harassment by lakefront staff

Evanston’s top HR official suspended after allegations of widespread sexual harassment among beach staff

City employees describe culture of sexual misconduct on Evanston beaches