Another Lightfoot cabinet member resigns
Family & Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler announced her resignation Monday, saying a recent “health scare” had “really made me crave just a little more professional and personal flexibility.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is losing yet another key member of her cabinet.
Family & Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler announced her resignation Monday in an email to the 50 aldermen with whom she has worked so hard to combat Chicago’s entrenched problem of homelessness.
“It’s a loss to the city. ... She was compassionate and fair. Whoever comes behind her has big shoes to fill,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee.
“I can speak to her willingness to try new approaches to dealing with the homeless situation I have in a location in my ward. It’s still problematic. But we were able to get two or three people into housing, which removed them from the streets. It’s a challenge, but she was willing to try different ideas and find funding for them.”
Housing Committee Chairman Harry Osterman (48th) agreed Morrison Butler is “one of the shining stars” at City Hall, leaving Lightfoot with a “huge hole” to fill.
“She has worked to help homeless people, children, senior citizens in a very tireless way. She really touched a lot of lives in Chicago with people who need it the most and did so always with the City Council in a spirit of partnership,” Osterman said.
“I can’t say enough about how hard-working and what a great person she’s been for the city of Chicago.”
Morrison Butler was a holdover from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. During the pandemic, she worked hard to prevent the coronavirus from spreading like wildfire through city homeless shelters.
“I had a health scare in the months leading up to the Christmas holiday. While my prognosis is strong, that journey really made me crave just a little more professional and personal flexibility,” Morrison Butler wrote.
“The role of Commissioner is an incredible one, indeed, but it is virtually non-stop, 24/7 and so stepping down is the right move and this is the right time.”
Morrison Butler said her last day on the job will be Feb. 26. She will be replaced, at least temporarily, by Brandie Knazze, her first deputy commissioner.
“I am proud to have served with the dedicated team at DFSS. Their commitment to our city’s most vulnerable residents and to delivering and supporting the services these residents need has been my inspiration,” the commissioner wrote.
“Mayor Lightfoot has my deepest respect and admiration for the compassion and leadership she has shown during this incredibly difficult time in Chicago’s history. Every day that I have served as DFSS Commissioner has been a pleasure and I have been grateful to hold her trust and support. I will always be grateful to her for affording me this opportunity to serve the people of Chicago.”
Morrison Butler is just the latest in a steady stream of top mayoral aides to leave even before Lightfoot reaches mid-term.
Ten days ago, Lightfoot’s communications director Michael Crowley announced his resignation after 18 months on the job. Lightfoot’s first communications director didn’t even last 100 days.
In addition to Crowley and Marielle Sainvilus, press secretary Anel Ruiz, chief risk officer Tamika Puckett, deputy mayor for public safety Susan Lee, chief of security Jim Smith, deputy communications director Lauren Huffman, deputy press secretary Pat Mullane and chief engagement officer Juan Carlos Linares are among those who didn’t make it to mid-term.
More recently, Lightfoot fired Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner, her longtime friend and former colleague in the U.S. attorney’s office, in the fallout from a police raid on the wrong home that forced social worker Anjanette Young to stand naked, humiliated and pleading for more than 40 minutes while male police officers searched her home.
Lightfoot claimed she didn’t know about Flessner’s attempts to block WBBM-TV (Channel 2) from airing bodycam video of the raid.
On Monday, the mayor denied that Butler’s resignation marked another spin of a revolving door in her administration.
“She’s tired. She’s had a very tough run. She’s had some personal health issues. ... When you face those, you re-focus and you think about what’s important,” Lightfoot said.
“Lisa’s a warrior. Her job is very difficult. It is truly 24-7. She’s decided that it’s in her best interest and that of her family for her to step back...and look for an opportunity that isn’t as physically demanding. ... This pandemic has really forced all of us to think about what’s most important in our lives. How are we spending the precious time that we have on this earth? Lisa has done that and made a decision that’s right for her. I respect that.”
David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, has questioned whether Lightfoot’s abrasive management style and the crisis-filled times might be making it difficult for her to hold onto good people.
It hasn’t quite reached the “revolving door” during former Mayor Jane Byrne’s single term but it’s “part of a pattern,” Greising has said.
“Sometimes turnover can be good if you have the wrong people in places. But when you see sort of a never-ending round of turnover, it begins to raise questions either about your judgment about people when you hire them or your management of those people when they’re in the job,” Greising told the Sun-Times after Crowley announced his resignation.
“We just see how she operates in public. Not always owning up to her accountability. Talking about how tough she is on her staff. We have no idea what it’s like to work for her. But we can imagine it’s not easy. And after a while, people are gonna find other opportunities.”