State rejects racial harassment complaint filed by former Sauk Village administrator

2013-05-15T10:30:00Z 2013-05-15T23:50:03Z State rejects racial harassment complaint filed by former Sauk Village administratorGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
May 15, 2013 10:30 am  • 

SAUK VILLAGE | The Illinois Department of Human Rights informed village officials this week it is denying a complaint filed by a former village administrator, who is black, alleging racially motivated harassment.

Henrietta Turner said in the complaint she filed in September she was verbally harassed from February through August last year with racial slurs by then-Village Trustees Ed Myers and David Hanks and Village Clerk Debbie Williams.

But the state agency that investigates such complaints notified Village Attorney Burt Odelson that it was “denying” the complaint. When the complaint was originally filed, state officials said they were investigating alleged harassment, job elimination and retaliation for opposing discrimination.

Odelson said the state found that Turner’s complaint was not filed in a timely manner, and that state investigators also held it against her that neither she nor any attorney on her behalf showed for hearings the Human Rights Department tried to hold on the matter.

Odelson also said his law firm was able to present evidence on Sauk Village’s behalf that showed no racial intent was made in any actions taken toward Turner, although he would not specify what that evidence was.

Turner, when contacted by The Times, would only say, “I have no comment about Sauk Village.”

Turner was the village administrator chosen by former Village President Lewis Towers in November 2011. Towers' critics on the Village Board tried several times to fire her, resulting in legal battles in the Cook County Circuit Court. They ultimately did away with her position for the current fiscal year, contending the village had no money to pay her salary.

But Towers said he always saw the move as an attack on him. Turner, at the time, said she believed her ultimate dismissal from village government was racially motivated.

Odelson announced the dismissal of the complaint during a Village Board meeting, along with the dismissal of lawsuits brought against village government by Towers supporters Bernice Brewer-Houston and Francine Anderson.

At the time of the complaint, Williams, Hanks, who has since been elected village president, and Myers denied making any racial comments toward anyone.

Hanks and Myers declined to comment about the issue Tuesday, although Williams said she was pleased with the state’s ruling.

“This case turned out exactly the way I expected,” she said, adding that she is grateful to the legal work done by the law firm of Odelson & Sterk in her defense.

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