Evanston aldermen: Approving $500,000 racial discrimination settlement is a 'business decision'

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:13:48 AM. Evanston aldermen on Monday voted to approve a $500,000 settlement with a former public works director who sued the city, city manager and other staff alleging racial discrimination.

Aldermen stressed that the $500,000 approved Monday to settle a former city workers federal discrimination lawsuit was more of "a business decision" and likely less costly than fighting the allegations in court.

"The likelihood of this case being decided in our favor was slim," said 8th Ward Ald. Ann Rainey.

Aldermen, however, stressed that the payment agreement was not made because they felt city or staff were at fault. Instead, they said, it was a financial choice on the part of the city to avoid a long and costly legal battle.

"I realize that we're dealing with the taxpayers money and I truly believe that if we don't settle this case this woman will go after the taxpayer for every last penny she can bleed out of us," Rainey said.

The settlement passed 6-3, with aldermen Rainey, Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, and Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, voting against it.

Suzette Robinson, a former Public Works Agency director, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in May 2016.

According to the lawsuit, Robinson was public works director for Evanston from March 2010 until August 2015. The suit said that she was one of "three African-American employees at the department director level reporting directly to Bobkiewicz."

Robinson alleged in her complaint "discrimination on the basis of race, harassment and [a] racially hostile work environment." In addition to the City of Evanston, the lawsuit names current City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, city attorney Grant Farrar and human resources manager Jennifer Lin as defendants.

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