A sexual harassment complaint against a housing authority employee

Published

***UPDATE 7/6/22*** Housing authority has released the complaints as the PAC requested. They’re the same as the ones I obtained from an alternative source, except the authority has redacted personal information from them. I’ve placed the file in the FB group, here.

In January 2022, on a tip, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb (HACD) to ask for complaints against its operations director, Vivian Bright. HACD denied the request, and the Public Access Counselor (PAC) of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office consented to review the decision to deny. The PAC recently determined that complaints against public employees are not exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and asked HACD to release the complaints.

It’s been more than three weeks since the parties received the PAC’s determination letter, and I have yet to hear from HACD despite letting them know I still want to receive these documents.

However, I was able to obtain emails discussing a complaint against Director Bright from another source. Below is the body of a sexual harassment complaint letter sent to HACD board members. (Edits contained in [brackets] are mine.)

I have reached out several times, and have not yet received a response from the board. This letter will serve as to formally submit in writing what happened with Vivian Bright sexually harassing me during my time of employment with the Housing Authority of Dekalb County. As I stated in previous correspondences, if the roles were reversed and I as a man were conducting myself in the manner Ms. Bright did, I would have been terminated immediately as well as other consequences for my actions. It’s sad that the board and [the former executive director] (who just so happens to be Ms. Bright’s best friend) turned a blind eye to this behavior.

Almost on a daily basis Ms. Bright would say things as follows “you need to get an ass” “you need to get laid.” This was on a very regular basis. This happened often when we were one on one, even as far as saying it at managers meetings. In the presence of both [the former executive director] as well as Mrs. Christine Sauter head of human resources. Ms. Bright even went so far as physically grabbing my pants and pulled them up. All accusations happened at one time or another in the presence of other employees. I am more than willing to take a lie detector, and hopefully the other parties involved will feel the same.

The culture at HADC is shameful at best. It even included [the former executive director] trying hard to set me up with her sister while I was still married. I’m more than happy to speak at the next board meeting, or with the board individually or as a whole. These behaviors are completely unacceptable, and there must be consequences including the termination of Ms. Bright. This issue will not go away. Neither will I. I look forward to your response.

— Letter from complainant to HACD board members

This complainant sent the board several emails. Some are dated 2021 and some are more recent. They’ve apparently been kicking this matter around for a while, yet HACD claimed in a letter to the PAC this year that it’s investigating a sexual harassment complaint against Vivian Bright. HACD’s official policy is to complete such an investigation within 10 days so this does not compute. One hypothesis might have HACD initiating an investigation as a tactic to delay or avoid release of a complaint, although multiple complainants could possibly help explain the state of affairs, too. We’ll know more when HACD finally makes the release.

I’ve previously offered examples of HACD’s unprofessional and inappropriate behavior in this post, and the full series on housing authority issues is here.