Chicago Water District's email controversy appears to worsen
Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson's ongoing investigation into allegedly racist emails sent by Water District supervisors has revealed additional inappropriate messages, the Chicago Tribune reported recently.
The investigation has garnered five resignations so far, including Commissioner Barrett Murphy. After Mayor Rahm Emanuel learned of the then-eight month old investigation and requested Murphy's resignation in May, managers William Bresnahan and Paul Hansen also resigned. Two more employees, Thomas Durkin and John "Jack" Lee Jr., were placed on administrative leave in late June and subsequently resigned.
The city provided nearly 1,300 emails, dating from 2013 to April of this year, to the Chicago Tribune. Some emails sent by Hansen allegedly contained homophobic, sexist, racist and anti-Islamic messages.
The Tribune revealed that the water department had been put on notice as far back as October 2014, when a deputy human resources (HR) commissioner sent an email suggesting that supervisors should be trained on issues regarding harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
The HR email read in part: "Although (the Department of Human Resources) has not made this training mandatory, there are several reasons that each supervisory employee should receive this training."
In addition to the ongoing investigation, a federal lawsuit has been filed alleging racial discrimination against African-American water department employees. The water department has been accused of passing over African-American employees for promotion as well as harassment and promoting a hostile workplace.
In response to the email controversy, Emanuel appointed Randy Conner as Water Department commissioner. Conner previously served as first deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). He has worked for the city for more than 20 years.
Conner, who is African-American, announced after taking office on June 3 that all managers and supervisors will receive additional training on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.