DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – Packets of more than 20 pages were handed out by one Vermilion County Board member to the rest of his colleagues during Tuesday’s meeting. Inside them are details from two sexual harassment complaints filed against fellow board member Jerry Hawker.
“Mr. Hawker’s behavior toward women is completely unacceptable by today’s standards,” one woman said during public comment.
Later that meeting, Hawker said it’s the first time he’s seen the latest accusations against him in writing.
“What we are doing here this evening is our last chance to control these situations locally,” board member Kevin Green said after successfully requesting to add a discussion of committees to the night’s agenda.
Green went on to say the Illinois Department of Human Rights and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could become involved if his colleagues don’t take action.
“These resolutions primarily deal with sexual harassment and financial conflict of interest by current county board members,” Green said.
The documents he distributed claim Hawker “singled out” Kasey Snyder, director of the Animal Control Department, based on her gender. Documents also claim Hawker used “aggressive and abusive communications” with Snyder to “discourage and embarrass her,” and that “the crux of the complaint is intimidation as a form of sexual harassment.”
“Being accused of something… first of all, this is the first time I’ve seen this complaint,” Hawker said after getting a copy.
Green presented a resolution to remove Hawker as chair of the Health and Education Committee and appointment to any other county board committee, and for him to “avoid any attempt at running the affairs of the Animal Control Department.” A second resolution seeks to re-institute a Personnel Committee “as a stand-alone committee to address policy to ensure equity, inclusion, and diversity” for employees.
“I haven’t even read the complaint, but I think that it’s sad when a board member or committee chairman and the committee wants to ask questions of a department head that all of a sudden, it becomes a sexual harassment complaint,” Hawker said during the meeting.
Documents say Hawker was asked to stay away from Snyder after she filed the complaint in December. The final straw was a phone conversation in which Snyder says Hawker referred to her as “a little girl” or “little lady.”
“I would just like to remind my fellow board member that liability goes both directions,” Hawker said.
The packet also includes a December email from Snyder to Board Chairman Larry Baughn asking to know how he planned to handle the situation. During public comment, the sole woman who spoke on the matter demanded the board make a change.
“So that the public is not to believe that this board condones this type of behavior,” she said.
Also shared were details from a 2021 investigation into a complaint registered by Danville Election Commission Executive Director Sandra Delhaye. Delhaye accused Hawker of singling her out “in an attempt to intimidate her and to make her miserable enough to quit and leave” over the span of roughly eight months.
“Jerry Hawker would publicly try to denigrate her in her office, at public meetings, and with her peers by aggressive and demeaning words with the intent to humiliate her in front of others because she is a woman,” the report states. “Jerry Hawker singled out the Election Commission with the declared intent to close it down.”
Lastly, the report includes a resolution to remove Steve Miller as the Finance Chair and Committee on Committee chair, claiming a potential conflict of interest in this situation. Miller did not give an immediate response during the meeting.
“You might ask – ‘where do we go from here?’ When I give you this packet, you are to take it home, read it, study it, form your own opinion and be prepared to discuss and vote on these resolutions next month,” Green said, addressing his colleagues.
Upon receiving the packet, Chairman Baughn said the board will take it all in and refer to it at a later date.
We’ll bring you more details as we continue investigating.