The new non-descript term “going in a different direction” is the 21st century version of “You’re fired.” This is exactly what 20 (and still counting) former Illinois Attorney General’s office employees feel since the current attorney general, Lisa Madigan took office.

The 20 former employees consist of 18 blacks and two Hispanics. No one argues that each political party should have people on their team that will work for the good of that party. Usually regime change occurs soon after new leadership takes office. Continuing to make changes 2 or 3 years later is unusual. It’s even odder when the changes focus on a certain ethnic group. African Americans supported this attorney general in record numbers. Are they now being “kicked to the curb” because their usefulness is no longer needed?

Yes, there are some blacks still employed, and some blacks will undoubtedly be used to drive a wedge between people. Black-on-Black wedge division isn’t a new tool. Remember the “Willie Lynch Letter”? In 1712 slave owner Willie Lynch proposed a method of control over the slaves. He proposed distrust is stronger than trust, and envy stronger than adulation. After the slave is indoctrinated he would carry on and become self-generating for hundreds of years.

You would think if a politician planned to continue to run for various offices, it would be a good idea not to alienate any ethnic group. Under normal circumstances when two or three people are let go, often management has some type of cause, and the people usually know when they have screwed up. But how do you justify 20 employees, many of whom do not know each other? How do you justify people with long work records? Obviously if someone is a “bad” worker they usually won’t last five, 10, 15 and 20 years. How do more than a dozen employees go “bad” at or about the same time? These and other concerns were recently discussed at a meeting held at the Westside Branch of the NAACP, convened by president Vera Davis.

When Lisa Madigan’s office decided to “change directions” for the West Side Regional Office, located 3333 W. Arthington, organizations, ministers and community activists were upset. Attorney Eleanor Porter ran the one-woman operation. A letter requesting a meeting was submitted on March 29. When Ms. Madigan appeared, those in attendance considered her answers about the office being closed and the firing of Porter to be unsatisfactory.

Now there is an impasse. Current and former employees, all African Americans, have been sending anonymous letters and speaking out.

Here is some of the testimony of those present at the meeting:

Attorney Eleanor Porter: “On March 17th or 18th, I received an e-mail to come downtown, and the e-mail was from Pat Kelly, the Regional Office Division person. The e-mail told me to come downtown the next day [Thursday] for a meeting at 1:30 p.m. I was told that we would be discussing regional issues. So the next day at 1:30, I went downtown and met with Mrs. Kelly, who then went with me down to the 11th floor and at that moment there was a person named Melissa Mahoney who told me, “It’s unfortunate these things happen. We’re going in another direction.”

“This took all of five seconds. I turned in all my identification. I was told not to come back to the office and to make arrangements to get all of my items out of the office and that I could not come back any longer, other than to make arrangements. That is my story.

“Since this happened to me, my phone has been ringing off the hook, and I had a hard time convincing people on the West Side that I was no longer there. I guess to some extent I was a fixture on the West Side. The day after I left the office, people from downtown came to the West Side, telling people I had quietly resigned the office, as if I had woke up on Thursday and said I’m no longer working at the office.

“I appreciate the community that supports me because during my tenure as West Regional Director, the West Side was really looked down upon. We were constantly portrayed negatively in the news. It was like murder every day on the West Side on every corner. [You] should be apprehensive about coming out here. I felt if I was regional director, I had a mission to do outreach, to do presentations, and to do intakes. Since leaving office I’ve had people call me with their stories, and I asked them to come to this meeting because, I felt first of all, we need to meet each other and identify our situations. When things happen to you in isolation, you feel as if you’re alone, and that is when a lot of problems start?”when you feel you’re in a situation by yourself.”

Mrs. Lillian Drummond, Utility chair, South Austin Coalition had the following statement regarding the meeting with Lisa Madigan: “We asked her what the problem was and why did she do this to us? And she said, ‘It’s against our rules.’ I said a lot has happened. She would give us no information. We cannot tell you because we would be sued or something, she said. So I said, ‘Why did you get rid of [Porter] when she was doing outreach in the community?’ For one person, she did a whole lot and then you went and hired three other people to do one person’s job. I think what you should have done in the beginning was call a meeting with the community and let us decide what’s going on. But she didn’t want to stay long. Then she came to another meeting with the ministers, and she left in a ‘huff.’ She did not answer questions.”

Several participants also gave testimony, saying basically the same reason was given: “We’re going in a different direction.” These participants decided at this time to withhold their names.