Chicago City Hall. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
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Two more high-level supervisors face disciplinary action in the continuing fall-out from the offensive emails that forced a shake-up in the city’s scandal-scarred Department of Water Management.
Thomas J. Durkin, a $106,599-a-year general foreman of plumbers, has been placed on administrative leave without pay while Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner decides whether to follow Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s recommendation that Durkin be fired. Conner who is African-American, has been given carte blanche in a department with an ugly history of corruption and intolerance.
Sources said Durkin was accused of “sending and receiving” the same kinds of racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic emails that have already triggered the ouster of three other Water Management bosses.
John J. Lee Jr., the $128,088-a-year superintendent of the Water Management’s south district, has also been placed on administrative leave tied to the email scandal.
Ferguson’s investigation is ongoing and is almost certain to trigger more high-level firings, City Hall sources said.
Last month, a housecleaning in the Department of Water Management at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals swept out Commissioner Barrett Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and district superintendent Paul Hansen.
Sources said Murphy — whose wife, Lynn Lockwood, is a close friend of Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule — offered his resignation after being held responsible for the chain of offensive emails sent by an underling whom the commissioner failed to discipline; Murphy was among those receiving the emails.
The Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report that Ferguson uncovered the derogatory emails circulating in the Department of Water Management while investigating allegations that Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
Murphy’s ouster was a stunner, even in a city department with a history of corruption that’s notorious for its ugly, hate-filled culture.
That’s because it came at the risk of losing two close friends.
Lockwood once chaired a political fundraising committee for the mayor. She’s an Emanuel appointee to the Chicago Public Library board who helped organize the 2012 NATO Summit for the mayor and had a one-year, $160,000 consulting contract with the tourism agency known as Choose Chicago.
The offensive emails were released on June 2, the same day that the Emanuel administration moved to insulate itself from discrimination claims and lawsuits tied to the email scandal with additional training and an outside review of city policies.
In March 2014, Hansen sent an anti-Muslim chain email to Murphy and Bresnahan. The email — with the subject line “Muslims My Ass…” — decried a perceived lack of Muslim influence in American culture, concluding with a reminder that Muslims carried out the Sept. 11, 2011 and 2013 Boston Marathon terror attacks.
“Have you heard a Muslim orchestra? Have you seen a Muslim band march in a parade? Have you witnessed a Muslim charity?” the email read.
The email went on to rhetorically ask: “Where were Muslims during the Civil Rights era of this country? Not present. There are no pictures or media accounts of Muslims walking side by side with Martin Luther King, Jr. or helping to advance the cause of Civil Rights.”
(The email does not note that Malcolm X, a leading voice in the civil rights era, was Muslim.)
Another one of those emails was sent in January 2014. It was a chain email Hansen sent to Murphy, and it included a series of caricature-like images of President Barack Obama holding signs, with some reading “Thank you for your support citizens peasants comerades! [sic]” “Don’t call your Senators, I and my trusty czars will handle everything!” and “If you’re a soldier, a Christian, or a hunter, you’re probably a TERRORIST!”
Like most chain emails, the messages encouraged recipients to forward them on to others.