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Report Reveals Rampant Racism & Misuse Of City Resources In Water Department

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 17, 2017 7:21PM

City Hall, via senor codo/Flickr
Top level employees within the Chicago Water Department used city email accounts and computers to send racist jokes, pornographic images, and negotiate sales— including the sale of firearms—according to a quarterly report released from the Office of the Inspector General.

In a letter published by the office, Inspector General Joe Ferguson wrote that the investigation found “egregious, offensive racist and sexist emails distributed by and among employees of the Department of Water Management (DWM) that extended to senior levels of department management and that suggested the existence of an unrestricted culture of overtly racist and sexist behavior and attitudes within the department.”

Several individuals within the department have been ousted in recent weeks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Among them were Commissioner Barrett Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and district superintendent Paul Hansen. According to both the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, the OIG uncovered the emails while investigating Hansen for using his email account to sell guns.

According to the report, Hansen, who is not named in it, used his city email account to “negotiate personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars with private individuals.” Additionally he and several other employees sent racist, sexist, homophobic, and islamaphobic emails along with sexually explicit photos and videos. Among some of the most reprehensible communications (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AHEAD):

  • An email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” that was sent to multiple high-ranking DWM employees, the body of which states “If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend this is what you missed,” and then lists the number of people shot in several neighborhoods of color. The email goes on to say that “all Chicago Safari packages include 3 deluxe ‘Harold’s Chicken’ meals a day” and “You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”

  • An email containing an image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a watermelon patch.

  • Emails referring to Muslims as “rag head cock suckers”

  • Emails suggesting “that people should have thrown grenades at a black Italian politician instead of bananas.”

  • An email declaring a heterosexual pride day” which in part began “To all of my friends who are tired of taking a BACK SEAT to gays, lesbians, homosexuals, trans genders, women soldiers, bra burners, female boy scouts, women libbers, tree huggers, and eco-commie-environ-freaks, the looney left, Greens, social justice warriors and worse of all — those f------ Democrats!”

As if that wasn’t enough, the report says that an employee used city computers to access websites unrelated to city business on thousands of occasions over a four-month period, including sexually explicit, age-restricted videos on YouTube.

The report is the latest in a series of scandals surrounding the department. In late June, seven current and former employees of the department filed a lawsuit alleging African-Americans were subject to racial slurs, denied promotions, and sexually harassed because of their race, according to the Tribune. The lawsuit alleges employees were repeatedly subjected to the use of the n-word, faced "undue disciplinary hearings in retaliation for speaking out,” were regularly denied promotions or transfers, given less-desirable work assignments, and more.

Some employees who spoke out against the culture and filed multiple complaints with Chicago Police Department, the Department of Human Resources, and the OIG were subject to derogatory and threatening messages, according to the report.

In early July, two former employees spoke with Mary Mitchell at the Sun-Times, telling her they were reluctant to testify because of the harassment, saying they felt intimidated, and were seeking police protection.

“They apparently told him that we are responsible for him losing his job. We are afraid of this guy,” said David Reed, a former forensic scientist for the department.

“We have expressed that concern to the corporation counsel,” said Christopher Harris,” another forensic scientist. “They say there is nothing they can do. The police can give us special attention for two weeks and that’s it. After that, we are on our own. The way the city operates, they get us to testify, and after two weeks and something happens, they’ll say: ‘Go away.’”

Both men told Mitchell they received threats, racist emails, and text messages even after they left the department.

The employees who either resigned or were terminated have been put on a “do not rehire” list. In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told the Tribune it “acted swiftly.”

"Mayor Emanuel has been clear that the conduct uncovered by the OIG's investigation does not reflect Chicago's values and will not be tolerated, which is why he acted swiftly to address the issue and bring in new leadership at the Department of Water Management," said Shannon Breymaier.