Daily file photo by Colin Boyle
Karen Hawk, Evanston Parks and Recreation Department’s assistant director, resigned to become chief of the Lincolnwood parks department.
Hawk has worked for the city since 2003, serving in a variety of positions, including as a program manager and recreation manager. Prior to her city government career, she was Winnetka Community House’s recreational supervisor and Peoria Park District’s program coordinator.
Hawk’s last day employed by the city was Tuesday. She is slated to begin work in Lincolnwood on Nov. 1.
“We are thrilled to welcome Karen to Lincolnwood,” Lincolnwood Mayor Jesal Patel said in a statement. “Karen’s proven ability in Evanston over the last 18 years will certainly help to lead us forward with the planned enhancements to our Parks facilities and programs.”
Her departure from Evanston comes amid the ongoing investigation by an outside law firm into the city’s handling of allegations of abuse from lakefront employees.
More than 50 employees, primarily underage female lifeguards, sent a petition to the city last summer detailing experiences of sexual misconduct, which was made public in a July WBEZ investigation. City leaders faced significant backlash for the city’s lack of communication with residents following the investigation, prompting Mayor Daniel Biss to issue a formal apology last week on behalf of City Council that community members called belated.
Hawk was among the five Evanston employees who met last summer with the group of women who presented the petition to the city. In the past two months, at least three of those employees have resigned from their city positions.
Additionally, the city’s Head of Human Resources Jennifer Lin was suspended in July, and former City Manager Erika Storlie left office Oct. 8 due in part to significant backlash from the community.
The parks department also nearly saw another leadership change at the end of the summer. Parks and Recreation Director Lawrence Hemingway was appointed Aug. 4 as Oakland County’s new parks director, but rescinded his application amid public scrutiny. This follows an accusation of sexual harassment by Hemingway from a departmental staffer. The staffer also accused human resources staff of covering up the matter.
Despite her involvement in the city’s handling of the lakefront abuse, Hawk was never formally disciplined, according to city records. However, she was issued a one-day suspension in 2019 related to her signing off of unsubstantiated credit card transactions for then-Community Services Manager Kevin Brown.
Email: [email protected]
— Councilmembers release formal apology addressing lakefront sexual harassment claims
— City Council confirms Kelley Gandurski as interim city manager
— Evanston’s top HR official suspended after allegations of widespread sexual harassment among beach staff