Residents criticize city manager search, finalist at City Council meeting


Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Evanston residents expressed concern about the search for a new city manager and recently announced finalist Carol Mitten at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Saul Pink, Reporter

After the city announced Carol Mitten as Evanston’s only finalist for city manager, residents took to Monday’s City Council meeting to voice their concerns about the candidate and the 14-month city manager selection process.

The city announced last week that Mitten, the city administrator for Urbana, is the finalist for the city manager position. For the previous two failed city manager searches, the city announced two candidates and hosted a public town hall meeting with them. In this third search, Mitten is the only finalist and a town hall is scheduled for Thursday. 

“It remains a real concern that we still have no streamlined process for the hiring for the most powerful position in the city,” Evanston resident Trisha Connolly said.

The city manager is tasked with managing the city budget, navigating the city’s various goals and filling job vacancies. Mayor Daniel Biss described the city manager as the “CEO of the City of Evanston” in a town hall meeting earlier this month.  

Betsy Wilson, a mitigation specialist at Sentencing Advocacy Group of Evanston, noted Evanston’s opaqueness in response to sexual misconduct at the lakefront in 2021, which ultimately led to the resignation of former City Manager Erika Storlie. Wilson urged the council to prioritize transparency over speed when selecting a new city manager. 

“The thing that we need to take away from that debacle is that transparency in our city government is essential,” Wilson said. “Therefore, I think it’s important that we not hire Carol Mitten as our city manager.”

After Mitten was publicly named the only finalist, Evanston Fight for Black Lives criticized Mitten’s record with police oversight boards, referring to her claim that Urbana’s Civilian Police Review Board does not have the authority to consider if a police officer improperly used a taser gun.

Wilson said Mitten’s career in Urbana shows she will not prioritize transparency. Mitten supported Urbana city councilmembers who suggested they should not record an off-site meeting in February, which Wilson said circumvented the Illinois Open Meetings Act. 

Residents said there is no rush to find a permanent city manager, particularly after interim City Manager Luke Stowe took over July 12. Seventh Ward resident Kathy Rospenda argued that a more robust public engagement process should take place instead of an immediate hire. 

“I fear that the town hall scheduled for this Thursday is merely for show, and that Evanston is going to repeat its past mistakes and hire someone who is not fully committed to transparency, equity and inclusion,” Rospenda said. 

After 14 months of looking for candidates and $95,000 spent on search firms, residents will have the opportunity to share their opinions at the town hall on Thursday at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. 

“With each iteration of this process, it has become less transparent with less public input into the decision than the time before,” Rospenda said. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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