Maywood, IL. (ECWd) –
“Rather than uncovering evidence supporting her complaints, the investigation found a culture of fear and intimidation in Maywood created by Village Manager Wells-Armstrong.”
In March of 2022, Maywood Village Manager, and former mayor of Kankakee, Chasity Wells-Armstrong lodged a complaint alleging Mayor Booker was subjecting her to a hostile work environment and overstepping his authority, and also complained that the former Village Attorney participated in the mayor’s alleged misconduct and was terminated by the village manager and replaced by two attorneys from the law firm of Odelson, Sterk, Murphy, Frazier & McGrath, Ltd.
Village Trustees engaged a separate law firm to investigate the complaints made by the village manager of a hostile work environment and suspended the employment of Village Manager Wells-Armstrong on June 2, 2022.
In their confidential report obtained by ECWd, the investigation found that “Rather than uncovering evidence supporting her complaints, the investigation found a culture of fear and intimidation in Maywood created by Village Manager Wells-Armstrong.” Numerous individuals expressed fear of retaliation from the village manager, and as a result, the findings are in narrative format to protect the names of the people interviewed.
From the report:
- The investigation further found that Village Manager Wells-Armstrong engaged in discriminatory conduct. Notably, multiple people reported that Village Manager Wells-Armstrong made disparaging remarks about race and perceived sexual orientation. Witnesses also reported that Village Manager Wells-Armstrong frequently threatened to physically harm Mayor Booker when expressing her feelings toward him.
- It is my recommendation that the Board of Trustees terminate Village Manager Wells-Armstrong’s employment because of her retaliatory behavior towards employees and her use of discriminatory language and tropes to describe her perceived opponents.
- Some witnesses simply refused to speak to me citing their concerns of retaliation from the Village Manager. All the witnesses who feared retaliation were the Village Manager’s subordinates. None of the witnesses were concerned about retaliation from the mayor.
- The trip, which the Village Manager paid for herself, was a failure. The Village Manager recounts how the Mayor chose to listen to his car navigation system rather than her directions to the location – an example she claims that demonstrates how the Mayor does not listen to others.
- …the Mayor attempted to fire the Village Manager at a special board meeting on March 9 which was unsuccessful. The Village Manager then made the instant allegations on March 22 and March 25 against both the Mayor and the former Village Attorney.
- In the course of investigating the Village Manager’s complaint, I discovered serious concerns about how the Village Manager conducted herself in her day-to-day functions. Numerous witnesses reported that the Village Manager used derogatory terms, displayed discriminatory intent and/or engaged in retaliatory behavior against Village employees.
- I have conducted many workplace investigations and have never encountered a workforce like this one, that is uniformly afraid to cooperate with me.
- Examples of retaliation from the Village Manager include, but are not limited to, the following:
- When a department head answered a question from the Mayor at a COW meeting that the Village Manager did not like she ordered him to move his office to the basement;
- When the Mayor told the Village Manager that graffiti in the Village needed to be removed at a Board meeting the Village Manager reneged on the plan to hire a laborer to assist in the Department, telling the Department head that she would hire him an assistant deputy instead in order to keep an eye on him [the department head];
- The Village Manager removed a Department Head from the weekly meetings she had with Department Heads because she believed the individual was providing the Mayor information;
- The Village Manager placed a Department Head on a three-day unpaid suspension for disagreeing with her privately;
- The Village Manager moved offices of Village employees she believes were aligned with the Mayor to punish them; and,
- The Village Manager publicly shames and berates Village employees she believes are “disloyal” to her.
- Nearly every employee cried during their interviews with me. All the employees were anxious about their jobs and fearful of what the Village Manager might do to them in retaliation for speaking to me.
- As the Village Manager angrily told a Village employee, “I can fire you and there is not a damn thing the Mayor can do about it.”
Other findings included in the report indicated that the village manager used racist and sexist tropes by stating that “the Mayor has gender identity issues” and employees described comments made by the manager, such as, “momma” would take care of them, or “black momma” who would “whoop their ass”, and also the village manager used homophobic tropes and slurs to describe the mayor. One witness recanted how Wells-Armstrong said she would not “take orders from a well-groomed black man” because she would “prefer to punch him in the face.”
The end of the report placed blame, and suggested each trustee vote based on their conscience, not political party:
“So, who then deserves the blame for this? Ultimately, the Mayor and the Board of Trustees. The Mayor pushed through his preferred candidate and failed to utilize the appropriate procedure. Although the Village Manager previously served as the Mayor of Kankakee, for which she deserves to be congratulated, she barely met the qualifications for her current role. Had the Mayor utilized the appropriate procedure – a competitive national search with multiple candidates for the Board to consider – it is very likely that we would not find ourselves where we are now. Little surprise then that the Village Manager was not the right candidate for the job – she was the only candidate offered. After it became clear that the relationship was unworkable, the Mayor’s political opponents reveled in his failure while his allies jumped to his defense.
Trustee Reyes-Plummer alone voted based on her conscience, not her political party. Now everyone must do so. Each and every Trustee must do what they believe to be in the best interest of Maywood, not dictated by their political affiliation. In so doing the Village of Maywood can become an example of politics at its very best.”
The investigating attorney recommended terminating Village Manager Chasity Wells-Armstrong from her position and to conduct a proper search for a replacement.2022-06-02-Confidential-Workplace-Investigation-Report