Evanston demands transparency in the Council's evaluation of City Manager Bobkiewicz

Evanston demands transparency in the Council's evaluation of City Manager Bobkiewicz

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Evanston Demands Transparency in City Manager Evaluation started this petition to Evanston City Council

Evanston values equity, transparency, and effective government. The City Manager of Evanston Wally Bobkiewicz is an obstacle to those values. Evanston as a whole, and especially Evanstonians most marginalized by income and race, suffer due to Bobkiewicz’ irresponsible decisions. Evanston can thrive with an innovative City Manager who will correct unjust policies and structures and propose policies and programs that serve the needs of our whole community. Not only has Bobkiewicz never provided this for Evanston, he has impeded it. Our community’s health relies on his removal.

The most powerful role in Evanston government should be evaluated with transparency

It is the responsibility of the City Council to oversee and evaluate Bobkiewicz’s performance. That evaluation has always taken place in secret. The citizens of Evanston have no way of knowing which Council members approved of Bobkiewicz’s performance and which found it lacking. Nor is there any transparency concerning the content of his evaluation.

The City Council should re-evaluate Bobkiewicz, this time with transparency and on the public record. The public should know the criteria upon which he was evaluated, how he was evaluated in each criterium, and how each Council member evaluated him. Public input should be invited and strongly weighted in that evaluation.

Based on that evaluation, we anticipate and urge the Council to dismiss Bobkiewicz from his position as City Manager.

Bobkiewicz actions and inactions, often related to racial bias, have cost the Evanston community nearly two million dollars.

Only after the forced release of video showing EPD stop and then beat a Black man, did Bobkiewicz take any action to address the police malfeasance.

Bobkiewicz has a duty to oversee the actions of the Evanston Police Department, a duty he has abdicated in inappropriate deference to the police chief, even when the department had beaten and illegally arrested an innocent African-American man.

On October 10, 2015, Evanston Police stopped PhD candidate Lawrence Crosby based on their suspicion that Crosby had stolen his own car. Crosby “exited his car with both hands up, holding a cell phone in one hand. Officers approached with guns drawn. Police order[ed] Crosby to get down and when he does not quickly comply, a group of officers rush him and bring him to the ground.”[1] Crosby described what happened next. “I was face down on the pavement. One police officer was kneeing me in the back, while others pulled or punched. They paid no attention to my screams identifying myself as an engineering PhD student at Northwestern University. They just kept punching. One shouted, ‘Stop resisting!’”[2]

Instead of apologizing to this Crosby, the City, under Bobkiewicz’s management, pursued charges against him.[3]

For more than a year, Bobkiewicz took no steps to investigate whether racial bias contributed to the police decision to stop and beat Crosby. It wasn’t until an action under the Freedom of Information Act forced the City to release the video of the beating to the public that Bobkiewicz finally took any remedial action.[4]

The City Council recently approved a tax-payer funded payment to Mr. Crosby of $1.25 million.[5] City Clerk Devon Reid explained, “[t]he bulk of the $1.2 million settlement is compensation for reputational harm caused by us, the city and our refusal to take responsibility and work towards justice.” [6] That refusal, and the resulting harm, was made under Bobkiewicz’s supervision.

Bobkiewicz has been accused of racial bias.

This is not the first time Bobkiewicz’s actions have hinted at a difference in treatment by the city based on race. In 2017, such accusations cost the city nearly a million dollars. Former Evanston Public Works Director, Suzette Robinson, sued Bobkiewicz and the city, charging that Bobkiewicz had “a history of mistreatment of the City’s African-American community and the City’s African-American employees.” She cited instances in which Bobkiewicz made derogatory comments to employees and told Robinson that she was “of no value to the City Council” in a one-on-one meeting.[7] The City paid $400,000 in fees to outside lawyers.[8] Ultimately, the City Council viewed Robinson’s chances of success as so high that the Council agreed to a tax-payer-funded settlement of half a million dollars to settle the case against Bobkiewicz.

Bobkiewicz management of Evanston is contrary to the values of this community.

The City’s latest budget discussions in the fall of 2018 highlighted the urgent need to remove Bobkiewicz from his position and end his non-progressive management. The faulty Priority-Based Budget caused panic, demonstrations, and outcry in the community (and in city staff) as Bobkiewicz continued his years-long effort to remove social-service programs from the budget, including the city’s Victim Advocates, staffers who help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, a program that 57% of responding Evanstonians had ranked as among the ten most important city programs.[9]

Bobkiewicz proposed to dismantle a key program with award-winning managers that provides opportunities for Evanston's youth and young adults to become active and productive members of the community.

Kevin Brown is the widely respected and often outspoken manager of the Youth and Young Adult Division, a division whose successes are well recognized. Despite these successes, Bobkiewicz recently proposed the reorganization of Youth Services and its ten staff members. He did so without consulting Brown. This is in stark contrast to past reorganizations of other parts of city government, which were proceeded by months of evaluations and consultations. Bobkiewicz continued to advocate for his ill-considered proposal even in the face of concern from the Council and three months of strong opposition from many Evanstonians and manager Brown himself.

Bobkiewicz did not support City Clerk’s advocacy for increased police transparency, voter participation, and affordable housing and stooped to publicly profane name calling.

When recently elected African-American City Clerk Devon Reid pushed to make good on campaign promises to be an advocate for increased police transparency, voter participation, and freedom of information, Bobkiewicz objected, saying that Reid's plans overstep the authority afforded by his elected post. Bobkiewicz publicly described Reid as "the biggest asshole I've ever worked with" at a meeting with city department heads.[10]

Bobkiewicz is dismissive of resident input.

Residents report interactions with Bobkiewicz in which the City Manager has been dismissive and disrespectful of their input. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz is arguably the most powerful person in Evanston City Government. However, he has no direct accountability to the citizens of Evanston.

Bobkiewicz impartiality and ethics as a manager have been widely questioned.

City staff report that Bobkiewicz gives special treatment, including raises that violate union contracts, to staff members who are in his favor and punishes staff members who challenge him. He is also alleged to have granted himself extra vacation time and then authorized a payout for that vacation time, essentially giving himself a raise without Council approval.

Evanston deserves transparency

Bobkiewicz is arguably the single most powerful person in Evanston City Government, and his tenure has been shadowed by questions of racial bias, mismanagement, and ethical concerns. The City Council’s evaluation of Bobkiewicz performance must be conducted in public view. The Council should dismiss Bobkiewicz from his position as City Management.

[1] Bookwalter, Genevieve, Evanston Releases Video of Police Stopping Man Suspected of Stealing His Own Car, Evanston Review, 1/12/17.
[2] Crosby, Lawrence, Police Attacked Me For Stealing a Car. It Was My Own, Washington Post, 6/29/2018.
[3] Wang, Cassidy, Evanston Officials Approve $1.25 Million Lawrence Crosby Settlement, Call for End to Racial Criminalization, The Daily Northwestern, 1/29/19.
[4] Karisch, Kristina, City Presents Evanston Police Department Policy Changes, The Daily Northwestern, 2/7/2017.
[5] Karisch, Kristin, Former NU Graduate Student Settles Case with City Following Wrongful Arrest, The Daily Northwestern, 1/21/19.
[6] Wang, Cassidy, Evanston Officials Approve $1.25 Million Lawrence Crosby Settlement, Call for End to Racial Criminalization, The Daily Northwestern, 1/29/19.
[7] Karisch, Kristina, Aldermen Approve $500,000 Settlement In Discrimination Case Against City Manager, The Daily Northwestern, 11/14/2017.
[8] Jones, Shawn, City Paid Outside Lawyers $400,000 For Robinson Lawsuit, Evanston Roundtable, 12/13/2017.
[9] Meadows, Jonah, Evanston Approves 2019 Budget With Increased Property Taxes, Fees, Evanston Patch, 11/20/2018.
[10] Meadows, Jonah, Emails, Police Report Detail Evanston City Hall ‘Witch Hunt,’ Evanston Patch, 12/29/2017.

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