The parks director for the city of Evanston resigned Monday, becoming the latest of several top officials in the northern suburb to leave amid a growing sexual misconduct scandal involving lifeguards and other young, female beach workers.
Lawrence Hemingway quit his $179,909-a-year job with the city, according to an internal email obtained by WBEZ.
In an email to the mayor and City Council on Monday, Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski wrote, “Please be advised that this morning, Lawrence Hemingway resigned from his position as Director of Parks and Recreation and he left his employment today.”
Mayor Daniel Biss and city officials did not return messages seeking comment on Hemingway’s resignation. Evanston leaders have said they would not speak publicly about the topic until an independent report from an outside law firm is complete.
The city hired the lawyers last summer, days after WBEZ reported on allegations of rampant sexual harassment, abuse and assault from 56 female current and former lifeguards and other beach workers.
Evanston officials recently said the law firm’s report would be released soon, and the City Council has scheduled a closed-door special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Hemingway, who began working for Evanston six years ago, could not be reached for comment.
His resignation was just the latest in a long string of departures of high-level officials at Evanston’s city hall since the beach workers’ allegations became public. City Manager Erika Storlie and top human resources official Jennifer Lin were among those who left the city of Evanston’s payroll last year, after WBEZ broke the story.
Hemingway was mentioned in another story published last week by WBEZ, which detailed why young, female beach workers confronted officials with their accusations in July 2020. According to former city employees and public records, a petition drive alleging sexual misconduct was circulated among beach workers and presented to officials after an earlier complaint about a manager resulted in no disciplinary action.
And records show that in 2019, Hemingway himself was found to have “violated the City’s Healthy Work Environment and Sexual Harassment policies” after a complaint from a co-worker prompted an official investigation.
In their report on the investigation, city officials wrote that Hemingway “admitted” calling the co-worker by inappropriate names and commenting on vacation photos of her in a bathing suit and on a beach that were posted in social media.
“Mr. Hemingway was apologetic and took responsibility for his comments,” according to the city records obtained by WBEZ through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Evanston city manager at the time, Wally Bobkiewicz, gave Hemingway a written reprimand.
The report concluded: “Mr. Hemingway has been previously counseled on how to address staff in the workplace. He has been advised to refrain from gratuitous comments and casual name-calling. He needs to do a better job of toning his voice down and avoiding colloquialisms and casual language in the workplace. Mr. Hemingway needs to be more mindful of his professionalism and his expectations as a Director.”
Anna Fredrick, a former beach worker who helped organize the 2020 petition drive, said beach workers knew of the 2019 allegations against Hemingway and because of that, they did not want to discuss their complaints about beach managers with him. She said organizers of the petition consequently had little contact with Hemingway when they pressed officials to change the sexist workplace culture at the lakefront.
“We never would have been comfortable bringing [the petition] to him in the first place, given his own history,” Fredrick said.
After Hemingway’s resignation Monday, Fredrick and another organizer of the petition drive said they welcomed his departure from the city of Evanston.
“It’s good to see some repercussions for him in a way because he had been heading up the whole department,” Fredrick said. “Somehow he remained in his position for a long time, despite the allegations against him.”
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Follow him @dmihalopoulos.