The Crusader Newspaper Group

Mayor Lightfoot replaces communications director amid questions

Crusader Staff Report

Mayor Lori Lightfoot late Thursday replaced her communications director hours after Marielle Sainvillus resigned amid questions.

Michael Crowley, who served as chief of staff for After School Matters, was hired as Lightfoot’s new communications director. He will be responsible for working directly with the press and overseeing a communications staff that handles press conferences and questions from the media.

In 2018, Crain’s Chicago Business named Crowley one of the city’s notable LGBTQ Executives who “initiated and directs government relations and advocacy work, securing annual multimillion-dollar grants from Illinois.”

“Crowley is a veteran communications and operations expert, bringing over ten years of management experience to a key role on the Mayor’s senior team,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

In another statement, Crowley said, “I am humbled by the opportunity to serve this city and work for this Mayor, someone who is committed to taking on the tough challenges.”

Sainvilus, whom Mayor Lori Lightfoot hired as her communications director in May, abruptly left the job on August 14.

Questions remain whether Sainvilus resigned or was terminated. Sources close to Sainvilus said she had resigned and planned on staying for the first 100 days under Lightfoot. Sainvilus resigned two weeks before that goal. The Chicago Sun Times reported that Sainvilus was forced to resign but the paper, citing an anonymous source, said Sainvilus was “constantly getting blamed for some of the not-so-great stories that came out and how they were handled. But in reality they were trying to clean up what other people were doing and decisions made about how to roll things out.”

The paper also said that media inquiries were not being handled fast enough as controversial topics came up. This however, has not been the Crusader’s experience with Sainvilus.

Sainvilus was a promising media professional who worked in a similar position at the University of Chicago when Lightfoot hired her in May after Lightfoot became the city’s first Black female mayor. Lightfoot allayed concerns in the Black community when she hired Sainvilus, a Black woman to serve as her top communications staff member.

While Sainvilus may have been criticized for her performance, according to emails and text messages during her experience with the Crusader, she served the newspaper well after the Crusader had a difficult time getting information and credentials for Lightfoot’s inauguration from several of the mayor’s staff members. Sainvilus’ departure came as a shock to the Crusader, which expressed its concerns to Lightfoot about equal access to the mayor’s office during a meeting with the Black Press a month after Lightfoot was elected in April.

The Sun Times reported at a press conference Thursday about the Chicago Football Classic at City Hall, Lightfoot said “We accepted her resignation. I want to thank her for her incredible contribution — both during the transition and the early part of the administration.”

The Crusader was unable to attend the press conference because the  mayor’s press office did not inform the newspaper early enough to allow a reporter to cover it. An email about the press conference was sent to the Crusader five hours after the office closed after normal business hours  Wednesday.

Sainvilus has served as deputy press secretary for the Chicago Public Schools during Rahm Emanuel’s administration, assistant press secretary for the governor’s office and communications director at the Illinois Department of Human Services.

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