Elgin looking to hire multiple diversity and inclusion consultants

The city of Elgin started working with a new diversity and inclusion consultant earlier this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on efforts, and is looking to hire more consultants for a comprehensive approach.

The city issued a request for proposals in February, extended the deadline to May and received 13 responses, City Manager Rick Kozal told the city council this week. City staff members are reviewing the responses and will make a recommendation to the council.

"The sheer scope of diversity and inclusion requires expertise in not only a number of topics, but methodologies," city spokeswoman Molly Gillespie said. For example, someone versed in analysis of organizational strengths and gaps may not be as qualified to do one-on-one coaching for department heads, she said.

Meanwhile, the city started working early this year with consultant Mae Hicks Jones, who is listed as adjunct faculty in business at Elgin Community College.

Hicks Jones is "well-respected and has extensive knowledge of our community," Gillespie said.

Hicks Jones worked with the city's human resources director and community engagement specialist to develop a series of programs for city staff members on topics including identifying biases, microaggressions, oppression, sexual harassment, white privilege and Black Lives Matter, she said.

"This curriculum was developed but has not yet been implemented due to the current pandemic and the remote nature of the city's current workforce. Once all city staff return to the office, the employee development sessions can occur," she said.

When the curriculum is in place, including the number and size of sessions, Hicks Jones is expected to provide a cost proposal to the city.

The connection with Hicks Jones came after she reached out to Mayor David Kaptain to meet about a collaborative effort among Fox Valley communities, Gillespie said.

Elgin had developed a "framework for diversity and inclusion" in 2017 in conjunction with consultant Denise Barreto and her firm Relationships Matter Now. The stated goals are to deliver "superior" programs and services to the entire community; monitor and manage supplier diversity; and build a diverse workforce.

Barreto then angered some Elgin police officers who complained in late 2018 of some of her Facebook posts that mentioned white supremacy and former NLF quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who protested against police brutality. The city never officially commented on the issue but didn't renew her contract when it expired in December 2018.

Barreto was named last month as Cook County's first director of equity and inclusion.

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