City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin has categorically denied accusations of firing multiple people who reportedly refused to take part in alleged illegal and unethical behavior.
The allegations come after Conyears-Ervin moved to terminate four of her employees over the weekend before Thanksgiving week — including her former chief of staff Tiffany Harper, who is making the accusations, according to reports.
“That’s false,” the treasurer told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday evening. “I made a decision to move the office in another direction, and because of that, there were personnel changes.”
“They are Shakman-exempt employees. I have the right to make personnel changes at will.”
The Chicago Tribune reported Harper sent an email to Steve Berlin, executive director of the city’s Department of Ethics, claiming she was fired “without cause or reason.” In the email, she asked to file a whistleblower complaint with the ethics department saying she was let go for refusing to participate in “illegal and unethical conduct,” the Tribune reported.
Harper didn’t responded to a request for comment.
Berlin said in a statement he couldn’t discuss whether any individual filed a whistleblower complaint with the board because it is confidential under the ethics ordinance.
Conyears-Ervin denies the allegations.
“It is not unusual for an administration to make changes of personnel. Any other suggestion or statement outside of moving the office to another direction is absolutely false.”
Conyears-Ervin identified the fired employees, include a chief of staff, two assistant city treasurers and an office administrator.
What about laying off four of the 29 employees of the treasurer’s office so close to Thanksgiving?
“The way the budget works is that you have to meet your turnover in order to replace any individuals. Well, it just so happens that I met turnover to be able to replace those individuals,” she said.
“If I would have waited until next year, then it’s quite possible I would have been without leadership in the office for possibly up to three months. As an official representing taxpayers, I did not think that was reasonable. That would have put the office in possible harm’s way.”
A native of Englewood, Conyears-Ervin, who is married to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), served two terms as a state representative before she was elected city treasurer in April 2019. She most notably got into a tiff with Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year after the mayor stripped away Conyears-Ervin’s police bodyguard detail. Conyears-Ervin ultimately hired private security at the taxpayers’ expense, the Sun-Times reported at the time.
Contributing: Madeline Kenney