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Executive Director Transition Announcement

Updated: Jul 26, 2021


July 9, 2021

CGLA Executive Director Transition Announcement

It is with mixed emotions that we announce that Esther Franco-Payne, the Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), will be leaving the organization, effective July 31, 2021.

It is with mixed emotions that we announce that Esther Franco-Payne, the Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), will be leaving the organization, effective July 31, 2021, to transition into a new role as Vice President of Programs for the Public Welfare Foundation. As a long-time advocate and change-maker in the violence prevention and criminal justice space, this is in furtherance of Esther’s professional commitment to this critical work. While Esther will maintain her residence here in Chicago, she will engage in grant-making at the national level and continue to advance transformative justice in support of youth and adults impacted by the criminal legal system.

During her five-year tenure, Esther has led strategy for CGLA, expanding our programming, partnerships and innovation, as well as setting the course for the organization to become a significant stakeholder in support of the implementation of the social equity components of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, thereby, also serving as a leader and technical assistance provider with New Leaf Illinois.

Moreover, Esther has worked to stabilize our financial position and double our budget by creating new opportunities for fundraising and building staff capacity through a new leadership structure. Esther was also a leader in moving us to our new home at 6 S. Clark in 2018, thus increasing CGLA’s accessibility to clients, proximity to partners and presence throughout the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois as an expert and leader in the criminal justice space.

In these five years, along with other accomplishments, CGLA has been an award recipient of a four-year MacArthur Chicago Commitment, a Walmart grantee, a JP Morgan Chase partner, and was one of two organizations to receive the Inauguration Award from Governor JB Pritzker. CGLA’s policy work has also thrived under Esther’s direction with the passage of significant bills creating opportunities and removing barriers for individuals across the state of Illinois negatively impacted by the criminal justice system.

The growth and success of CGLA has been a true testament to Esther’s skillset as a leader. While transitions are difficult, change is constant. CGLA’s Board has already sprung into action by appointing an interim Executive Director, long-time volunteer, board member and former Board chair, Steve Fus. Steve has been a part of CGLA for over twelve years and is intimately familiar with CGLA’s mission, goals and strategic plan. Steve is an attorney whose practice is focused on improving access to justice for the underprivileged and consists of pro bono work with Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Equip for Equality and the Public Interest Law Initiative. We are very grateful to Steve for his leadership and commitment to ensure a successful transition to a new leader for CGLA.

Additionally, the Board has also formed a Search Committee and is working with Kittleman and Associates, LLC to identify Esther’s successor. The Board will be sharing more information as the process continues. However, if you have any questions or would like to nominate an individual for the role, please reach out to Cory King at

The Board of Directors and CGLA team stand ready to lead the organization and ensure that it maintains its stability through the transition in anticipation of a new leader to take the reins. We wish Esther the very best of luck in her future professional endeavors and look forward to continuing to collaborate with her.

We close with some parting words from Esther: “It has been a pleasure and significant growth opportunity to lead CGLA. I will always hold this organization close to my heart because at the end of the day CGLA is family. In my first public speech to the organization in 2016, I nervously started my remarks with the line, ‘Today, I stand before you as a brown girl from Englewood.’ Five years later, I am still that brown girl – stronger, wiser, better… For me, this is not goodbye, but see you later! THANK YOU CGLA! for all that you are, all that you do, and all that you will continue to do for individuals, families and communities across Illinois.” -- EFP


CGLA was established in 1973 to serve legal needs arising from the lack of opportunity, criminalization of poverty, and racial inequity experienced within the Cabrini Green community. Since then, CGLA has grown beyond a single neighborhood to become a citywide, countywide, and now recognized statewide leader in supporting low-income individuals negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. Give Justice a Voice at

For more information, please contact Steve Fus:

Program Related inquiries:

Fundraising and Development inquiries:

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