Diversity consultant's future with Elgin uncertain

  • Denise Barreto

    Denise Barreto

 
 
Posted11/28/2018 5:02 AM

More than two months after the work of diversity consultant Denise Barreto was put on hold when Elgin police officers complained about her Facebook posts, city officials still aren't saying whether they intend to continue working with her next year.

Barreto has talked with City Manager Rick Kozal and police Chief Ana Lalley, and had a conversation with a group of police officers. But neither she nor city officials are saying how it all went.

 

Meanwhile, the unconscious-bias training that Barreto had started doing for city employees in early September will be wrapped up the week of Dec. 10 by someone else who works with Barreto's firm, Relationships Matter Now, city officials said.

The city paid Barreto $34,444 for consulting work this year. Her contract expires Dec. 31.

"Following the completion of the city's 2018 contract with Relationships Matter Now, staff will reevaluate how it will be proceeding with its diversity and inclusion initiatives in 2019 and make recommendations to the city council," city spokeswoman Molly Center said.

City hall officials have declined to say which of Barreto's posts were problematic.

In one instance, Barreto shared a post that said, "If white women tried as hard to eliminate white supremacy as they try to lose weight, white supremacy would be ended."

In another post, Barreto told people to "(expletive) yourselves" if they were mad about Nike's relationship with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

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Barreto said Tuesday she is being more careful with swear words on social media. Regarding any problematic posts, "I understand that people were offended and I get it, but calling out racism is not racism. They are not equivalent."

As for continuing to work with the city, "This is where the work is, in these kinds of situations," she said.

"I am ready and willing to roll up my sleeves and do what's necessary to keep this work going in Elgin."

Scott Murphy, who is based in New York, will conduct the training in December.

The unconscious-bias training is mandatory for the city's 665 full-time employees; 139 employees attended the training in September, which also was open to part-timers, Center said.

Barreto said she suggested Murphy -- a volunteer EMT whose expertise is first responders -- finish the work while she and the city work through the issues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mayor David Kaptain said he thought it was a good idea for Barreto to meet with police officers to attempt "a reconciliation."

He didn't know the outcome of that, he said.

"If the employees have lost faith in her and what she's doing," he said, "that becomes problematic for the next year."

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