Former Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty Monday defended the performance of City Manager Erika Storlie, as the new City Council was debating her dismissal.

In a statement provided to Evanston Now, Hagerty said:

“I find it ironic and disheartening that on the eve of Evanston being recognized by the National Civic League as one of 10 All-American Cities, you are terminating the City Manager, Erika Storlie, whose leadership helped garner this national award.

“I am befuddled how you have concluded with less than three months on the job that Ms. Storlie, who was just appointed to this position a year ago, after a national search, is now unfit to to lead Evanston.

“Why would you terminate a City Manager less than a year on the job who has risen up through the ranks, has important institutional knowledge and a progressive outlook, and is well respected by the City staff and others, when she and her team has produced remarkable results for our City, most notably our successful response to the pandemic; our state of the art, nationally recognized Robert Crown Community Center; a $2M surplus in 2020 – the year of the pandemic – due to her quick actions to cut expenses in the second quarter last year; her efforts to quickly work with community partners to provide basic essential services to those most in need during the pandemic, including those struggling with food insecurity and housing; and her leadership in helping Evanston become the first City in the nation to develop a local reparations program.

“The bottom line is Erika Storlie is an excellent operations chief. She’s not charismatic – sorry Erika – she’s not a self promoter. She doesn’t play political games. Rather she’s focused. Respected. Dedicated. A problem solver. Fact driven. A team player. A person who can juggle multiple community priorities simultaneously and successfully. Most importantly, she’s full of integrity and she’s deeply committed to our community, raising her four children with her wife, Kristi, here in Evanston. She’s everything you’d want in a City Manager.

“What disturbs me the most is that the Council is making this decision before it has even begun a formal outside independent investigation of the alleged mismanagement of the lakefront allegations. This leads me to believe this is nothing but a convenient opportunity for some Council members to dismiss and damage her under a cloud of unfounded claims of mismanagement.

“Today is a sad day for Evanston. The Council is saying through its actions that uncorroborated allegations are more important than a thorough investigation, the facts, and due process. You are saying that anyone in the City, no matter how competent and ethical they are, is presumed guilty when any allegation is made. Or perhaps you are saying politics is now the first order of business in Evanston and that trumps facts and due process. Whatever it is, something is not right in an All American City when a highly respected and competent City Manager is dismissed before an investigation into the allegations of mismanagement has occurred.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.