Melissa Conyears-Ervin, the Chicago treasurer, has been accused of frequently misusing taxpayer resources, including using public employees to prepare her daughter’s birthday party and serve as her bodyguard and pressuring them to host events benefitting political associates.
Attorneys representing two workers Conyears-Ervin dismissed wrote a four-page letter in December 2020 alleging that Conyears-Ervin sought to coerce BMO Harris into issuing a mortgage on the building where her husband, Ald. Jason Ervin has his office.
Conyears-Ervin warned staff that they would be fired if they reported her unlawful plans or any wrongdoing, and she also implied that they “should not care whether her plans are illegal.” Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper were each awarded $100,000 from the city as a settlement for their dismissal by Conyears-Ervin. The conflict began in November 2020, when Conyears-Ervin initiated a workplace shake-up by firing Harper, her chief of staff, and Evans and two other employees.
Treasurer Jason Conyears-Ervin was accused in a letter of using political ally Gina Zuccaro for personal services and campaigning while using City resources. In addition, the letter stated that Conyears-Ervin had made controversial requests for City contractors to help her political allies. The letter also noted that Conyears-Ervin had utilized City funds to support religious groups that endorse her and her husband in elections.
In addition, the letter stated that Conyears-Ervin threatened the ladies with repercussions and told them their “asses can walk” if they didn’t follow her instructions.
After the terminations, the Tribune filed a FOIA request for a copy of the letter, but municipal authorities under Lightfoot denied the request. The Tribune filed a formal complaint with the attorney general’s public access counselor, who ruled in their favor in a nonbinding ruling and subsequently issued a binding opinion stating that the city should reveal the letter. However, the municipality maintained its stance, saying the letter was protected from disclosure under the FOIA because it related to confidential settlement talks.
The Lightfoot administration sued to prevent the binding ruling from being implemented, but the Johnson administration withdrew the suit when Lightfoot lost her reelection attempt earlier this year. The city is dedicated to complying with FOIA standards and making as much of its documents accessible to the public as feasible.