We’ve got racists in the Water Department. What a shock.
This is Chicago, which is part of America. We’ve got racists preaching from pulpits, writing laws and driving buses, too.
The real shock is that such ugly in-your-face, old-school racism, as well as homophobia and sexism, were allowed to fester and grow within the city’s Water Department, an apparent dumping ground for political hacks. People in charge looked away. They said nothing.
The other real shock is that some people still think this is where bigotry begins and ends in America, with the louts who sound like Klan members, when, in fact, the most insidious forms of discrimination today are institutional.
By all means, let’s drive the bigots out of the Water Department, and their spineless managers, too. But let’s take an even firmer stand on a second local scandal in the news this week — the way property values are assessed in Cook County to favor the rich and stick it to the poor. Let’s put an end to that as well.
In a report released this week by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson, we learned more about how one particular goof at the Water Department, district Superintendent Paul Hansen, the clouted son of a former alderman — no surprise there — banged out racist emails the way nice people send out birthday wishes. In one email about Chicago’s high murder rate, Hansen joked about a fake “Chicago Safari” package that would guarantee tourists “at least one kill and five crime scenes” and views of “lots of animals in their natural habitat.”
Hansen and a couple of other Water Department employees were fired or forced to resign, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also collected the resignation of the department’s top boss, Barrett Murphy. But given the department’s obvious culture of tolerance for bigotry, we can’t imagine the housecleaning is over. Changing a culture take changes in leadership throughout the ranks.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, while testifying before the Cook County Board, county Assessor Joseph Berrios said nothing to convince us that his office doesn’t have a serious problem of institutional racism. After the meeting, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she’s going to hire an outsider to “review” how Berrios’ office does real estate assessments, but nobody needs another study. That’s a way to look concerned while doing nothing.
Repeatedly over years, civic watchdogs and investigative reporters have exposed how the county’s way of assessing real estate values, which determines how much everybody pays in property taxes, is mysterious, arbitrary and stacked in favor of people and businesses that can afford high-priced tax lawyers.
If further proof were needed, the Chicago Tribune published a deeply detailed series of reports last month that showed how the assessor’s office uses a mishmash of formulas to overvalue low-priced homes while undervaluing high-priced ones. The pattern hits minority communities particularly hard.
“We are systematically over assessing homes in poor communities — the people that can afford it less — and it’s time to fix it,” Robert Weissbourd, president of an economic development consulting firm, complained to the County Board.
No worries, Mr. Weissbourd. They’re doing a study!
The pathetic truth is that Berrios’ office for seven years has had on hand a better model to assess property values but has never fully used it, if at all. Weissbourd’s firm helped devise the state-of-the art model, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation. It would significantly reduce the degree to which assessments shift the tax burden to those who can least afford it.
Forget about the study, President Preckwinkle. Tell your pal Joe Berrios to forsake the dark arts and start using the new model.
When you get down to it, baked-in institutional racism is more repulsive than some throwback bigot in the Water Department.
In a city scarred by a deep and troubling history with guns, a supervisor in the scandal-plagued water department used his city email account to negotiate firearms deals and make light of deadly Fourth of July violence in black neighborhoods by offering “Chicago Safari” tours, a new watchdog report revealed Monday.
The latest development in the ongoing investigation, which the Tribune first disclosed in May, emerged as Inspector General Joseph Ferguson detailed how ousted district water superintendent Paul Hansen emailed with individuals over personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars.
Those emails about firearms started the investigation over his use of a government account for personal business, which is against city rules. And it quickly spread to other emails sent by Hansen, who is white and the son of a former alderman, to other water department bosses, according to City Hall sources.
In his quarterly report, Ferguson revealed a fresh string of anti-black emails sent to multiple high-ranking water department workers that touted a fake “Chicago Safari” package. It cited the number of shootings during a July Fourth weekend and guaranteed tourists would observe “at least one kill and five crime scenes” and also see “lots of animals in their natural habitat.”
Hansen’s racially charged emails included messages to fellow workers purported to be in “Ebonics,” sometimes called American black English, and a picture describing a swimming pool for a small African-American child who sits in a bucket filled with water while holding a slice of watermelon, the report found.
Ferguson also cited Hansen’s “Watermelon Protection” email that featured a picture depicting a Ku Klux Klan scarecrow guarding a field of watermelons, part of a cache of racist, sexist and homophobic emails the Tribune first disclosed online Friday.
A second figure noted in the report for anti-Muslim and anti-black emails was Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers who resigned recently after being placed on administrative leave while under investigation. Neither Hansen nor Durkin were named, but the Tribune was able to identify them through City Hall sources, the description of their activities and job status listed.
Newly released racist, sexist emails show scope of scandal at Chicago’s water department
Hansen and Durkin could not be reached immediately for comment.
The inspector general’s quarterly report comes as Mayor Rahm Emanuel finds himself fighting the proliferation of firearms in the city and facing the fallout from another deadly July Fourth weekend in Chicago.
As Emanuel seeks to recapture support from African-American voters still upset over his handling of the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, the mayor and his aides have stressed that he installed a new commissioner and sought to remake the culture in the long-troubled department.
Still, Ferguson’s report raised questions about whether he found all the troubling emails. Ferguson said the mayor’s Law Department imposes restrictions that do not allow “unfettered access to city emails,” which has hampered the investigation. He said the Law Department requires that his office submit requests for emails using limited search terms and date ranges.
“Given the lack of direct access to emails,” Ferguson said that his office “cannot be certain it has identified all relevant documents.”
Lawsuit alleges racism at roiled Chicago water department
Bill McCaffrey, a Law Department spokesman, said restrictions on email searches are needed to protect the integrity of the inspector general’s investigation, any attorney-client privileges and the city’s “limited resources.”
“The protocol allows up to 20,000 emails to be produced at a time, however, we greatly exceeded that count in this investigation and have accommodated similar requests every other time the Inspector General has requested a larger search,” McCaffrey said.
Hansen’s misuse of a city computer was so prevalent that, in one four-month period alone, he called up sexually explicit, age-restricted YouTube videos and visited other internet sites unrelated to city business on “thousands of occasions,” the report found. Durkin also was cited for sending and receiving sexually explicit photos and videos on his city email account.
Emanuel aides have defended the mayor, underscoring his response to the investigation that has toppled Hansen, whose father is former 44th Ward Ald. Bernie Hansen, Durkin and three others. The biggest casualty came in May when Emanuel collected the resignation of water Commissioner Barrett Murphy, a friend of the mayor whose wife, Lynn Lockwood, is a former chairman and treasurer of one of Emanuel’s political funds and is close to his wife, Amy Rule.
At the time, the mayor’s office said Emanuel acted “quickly and decisively” by asking Murphy and top deputy William Bresnahan to step down after learning of what was then an 8-month-old Ferguson investigation.
“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,” spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier said Monday in response to the report.
And Emanuel’s newly installed water department Commissioner Randy Conner, an African-American, said his agency “has a zero-tolerance policy on racism and sexism” and “will continue to take all appropriate measures to fully enforce this policy up to and including termination, or separation” from the department.
The City Council’s chairman of the black caucus, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, said he is glad the investigation is continuing and bringing the issues to light. “I’m hoping under new leadership that they can address this head-on and eliminate that cancer that was eating away, permeating. right through the department.”
In late June, Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions and now have resigned.
Durkin sent email from his city account that referred to Muslims as “rag head c— suckers,” according to the inspector general. He also suggested that people should have thrown grenades at a black Italian politician instead of bananas, the report said.
In Monday’s report, it was Hansen’s attempt to make light of a spike of violence in largely black neighborhoods during a previous July Fourth holiday that figured prominently. The report said Hansen’s email to multiple high-ranking water department officials started with the subject line: “Chicago Safari Tickets.” The report doesn’t name the recipients.
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend this is what you missed,” the report quoted the email as saying. The date of this email and others were not provided in the report. The comment was followed by lists of the number of people shot in South and West side neighborhoods including Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore and Woodlawn.
“Remember all Chicago Safari packages include 3 deluxe ‘Harold’s Chicken’ meals a day,” the report quoted Hansen’s email as saying. “We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat. Call and book your Chicago Safari today.”
Four white people in safari gear are depicted as taking pictures of several black people who are trying to break into a car, the report said.
Durkin replied to the safari email with a message that described African-Americans as “wild animals” who are “untamed,” the report said.
Among the email’s photographs, the report said, was one of a “wheelbarrow full of watermelons with a sign stating, “Apply for a Credit Card. Free Watermelons.'” It was sent to a high-ranking official with the subject line: “U Know U Be In Da Hood.”
The email with the African-American child in a bucket and a piece of watermelon came with a message: “As an apology — Paula Deen Opens Swimming Pool for Youth.” A celebrity chef, Deen became the object of widespread ridicule when she said in a 2013 deposition that she used a racial slur. Deen, who was dropped by the Food Network, later apologized.
Ferguson said both Hansen and Durkin were designated as having resigned in lieu of discharge, and they will be placed on the ineligible-for-rehire list.
In another water department case, Ferguson recommended that a chemist who allegedly harassed a current water worker and a former employee be fired. Ferguson alleged the chemist made multiple derogatory text messages and phone calls, citing him for “aggressive and threatening behavior,” according to the report.
The department fired the chemist, who is fighting the termination.
The son of a former Chicago alderman used his city email account to buy or sell “at least four firearms and five cars” and send hate-filled emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals.”
Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Monday issued a quarterly report with several explosive new allegations about a Department of Water Management employee whom sources identified to the Sun-Times as former District Superintendent Paul Hansen.
Hansen is the son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Hansen (44th), who presided over Wrigleyville during the Cubs’ marathon battle for lights at Wrigley Field. The son’s checkered past with the water department includes allegations that his political clout helped him get his job back after a DUI conviction.
As the Chicago Sun-Times was first to report, Ferguson originally uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails circulating in the water department while investigating allegations that Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
New disclosures include a claim that the now-fired employee sent an email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” to multiple high-ranking water department colleagues.
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” the email states, listing the number of people shot in Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore, Woodlawn and other neighborhood plagued by gang violence. It concludes: “We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three-day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”
Yet another email with the subject line, “Watermelon Protection” includes the image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a watermelon patch. Another under the subject line, “U Know U be In Da Hood” contains several photos, including one of a wheelbarrow full of watermelons with a sign that states, “Apply for a Credit Card. Free Watermelon.”
Hansen was further accused of: “repeatedly” sending sexually explicit photos and videos; using his city email account to negotiate personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars and using a city computer to access websites unrelated to city business on thousands of occasions over a four-month period, including accessing sexually explicit videos on YouTube.
Hansen hung up on a Sun-Times reporter seeking comment on the new allegations.
Ferguson’s quarterly report also reveals a Water Management chemist “harassed” a former and current employee “through the transmission of multiple text messages and phone calls that included derogatory and threatening messages.”
The alleged harassment occurred “after both employees had already filed multiple complaints–including with the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Human Resources, and OIG — against the chemist for aggressive and threatening behavior toward them.
Newly-appointed Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner followed Ferguson’s recommendation to fire the chemist, only to have the fired employee file a grievance. Arbitration is ongoing.
Another now-fired Water Management supervisor was accused of sending racist and hateful emails that referred to Muslims as “rag head —suckers” and describing African-Americans as “wild animals” who are “untamed” in response to Hansen’s “Chicago Safari” email.
The fired supervisor also suggested that people “should have thrown grenades at a black Italian politician instead of bananas,” Ferguson wrote.
Last month, a housecleaning in the department at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals swept out Commissioner Barrett Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and Hansen.
Sources said Murphy was held responsible for the chain of racist and sexist emails; Murphy was among those receiving the emails but did not discipline the employee.
Ferguson’s investigation is ongoing and is almost certain to trigger more high-level firings, City Hall sources said.
The City of Chicago is under full attack after finding out just a few of the violent racist emails that are circulating at the Chicago Department of Water Management. The City of Chicago is subject to more lawsuits in the future thanks to the great reporting of Chicago Clout. Chicago Clout is going to help every lawyer in Chicago that is going to give honest government back.
The City of Chicago under Rahm Emanuel has the Mosquito program.
“Crews led by the Chicago Department of Water Management and others are dropping larvicide briquettes down all 210,000 catch basins on the public way. The slow-dissolving briquettes will, for the next five months, prevent large amounts of mosquito larvae from developing into biting adults. Additionally, the Department of General Services is ensuring treatment of over 3,000 catch basins not on the public way.”
The real program is a political program to Southside reverends to supply blacks in need of a temporary job. Rahm Emanuel supplies money and taxpayer funded goodwill to his benefit. One Chicago employee with clout will take the minivan (leased) with a van load of blacks and make sure the work is completed. The program helps high ranking black commissioners keep the political clout train rolling. The Jackson Family got a taste of this loot.
Many of the black kids were treated like crap and told not to use the bathrooms and stay away from the regular white and Hispanic crews. They were treated very poorly. One supervisor would always call them niggers. The fuckin niggers are here again. The high ranking North District boss said, “I’ll get rid of those niggers”. Many of the workers would laugh. One black kid had an accident after he was told, “take a shit somewhere else”. The way these black kids were treated was something out of a horror movie. I reported this behavior but nothing was done.
The Inspector General has known about Paul Hansen for years and nothing was done. The Chicago law department has had complaints about the rigged promotion of Paul Hansen, and nothing was done. Maybe Alderman Tunney will return my calls and he can explain why he put told Rahm Emanuel to put Paul in as District Superintendent. Maybe Plumbers Local 130 can explain their part in this mess.
I will have some more items for your interest. I hope the lawyers contact all those black kids and get them some relief. I’ve got some video for the upcoming election. Change. Frank Coconate is going to have some more action soon. “revenge is a dish best served cold”
CHICAGO (CBS) — Another round of emails released late Friday by the city of Chicago reveal more racist and sexist exchanges among some of the top officials in the Department of Water Management as recently as April a month before some were forced out, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Earlier emails, part of a months-long investigation by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson, led to Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy, Managing Deputy William Bresnahan and District Superintendent Paul Hansen losing their jobs.
The latest batch of emails contain homophobic slurs in addition to anti-black and anti-woman comments. Some of the most striking exchanges include an image of a scarecrow dressed in a KKK robe in a watermelon field, a picture of a nude woman used to celebrate “heterosexual male pride day” and comments mocking gays.
The email containing the KKK scarecrow was forwarded from Hansen to Murphy in July 2014 with the subject line “Watermelon Protection.” Included in the email, which Hansen had received from someone else, was the photo and this statement: “God is great, beer is good … and people are crazy. I’m guessing this would be considered politically incorrect.”
Hansen then added this: “I don’t understand.”
Another racist email Hansen shared with Murphy was sent in February 2013 in response to a request from ComEd for city employees to halt work near a power line serving a fire station, schools and a senior citizen home. “I think the only thing that the line does not feed is the center for the severely challenged negro midgets, you know the place, its where we hired all those laborers from 7 years ago,” Hansen wrote.
In an email Hansen received April 19, 2017 – just a month before he lost his job – there were pictures of steaks on a grill, beer taps on a bar and a woman bearing her breasts along with this message: “To all 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!
In yet another email, dated March 11, 2014, Hansen shared with Bresnahan a story about a 16-year-old Texas boy who purportedly won the world’s shortest essay competition by writing about religion, royalty, physical disability, racism and homosexuality. The email claimed the boy won a scholarship to a Texas university for writing this: “My God,” cried the Queen, “That one-legged n— is a queer.”
When Hansen was asked Friday night if he would like to comment on the newly released emails, he said, “If you’re looking for a comment, you can forget it” and hung up. A voicemail message left for Murphy was not immediately returned.
Shannon Breymaier, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said in a statement the mayor is “fully supportive” of recently appointed Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner’s actions to provide additional EEO training to the department’s managers and supervisors.
Late last month, several current and former water department employees filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city and top Water Management officials of creating “a hostile and abusive work environment based on race that includes violence, intimidation (and) retaliation,” the Sun-Times reported.
Barrett Murphy gave Paul Hansen the North District Superintendent promotion over much more qualified licensed employees. Paul Hansen had a rigged promotion if there ever was one. The City of Chicago Law Department covered up for this this when complaints were made. Ole Barrett is kicking himself in the ass now!! Gee, Paul Hansen was a great pick, eh you unemployed ass wipe. Alderman Tunney also used his muscle to put Paul Hansen in as the top dog at the Department of Water Management. Luci Pope Cozzi Anderson went to visit Paul Hansen at his office and the curtains were closed. Luci was accused of deleting Paul emails and covering up for this clown for years. Now that bribes from contractors is in the FBI laps, more fun and game are in order. Barrett told the entire North District how Paul Hansen would be great for the Department on June 8, 2011. Every promotion since the Shakman release from Federal Oversight resulted in Blacks, whistleblowers, and those with no clout, has been a joke. Maybe Luci Pope and Jennifer Isban can get fired soon. All of Paul Hansen discipline writeup are now going to be reopened, and in Federal court the way things are going. Please see an excellent article in the Chicago Tribune. Remember, if you are black or a whistleblower, please call Patrick McDonough or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got a bad injury settlement, please email email@example.com Attorneys are on standby. I also want to know why did the FOIA officer at the Department of Water Management hide email demands of Paul Hansen years ago? Fire all of them.
Hal Dardick, Ray Long and Todd LightyContact Reporters
Chicago Tribune Luci Pope Cozzi Anderson
City emails newly obtained by the Tribune cast light on the scope and offensiveness of racist, sexist and anti-gay slurs by politically connected supervisors at the top levels of the Chicago water department.
An image of a Ku Klux Klan “scarecrow” amid a watermelon field, a picture of a naked woman on a beach and off-color comments about gay people found their way into inboxes between early 2013 and April — a month before an investigation of the emails led to high-ranking officials losing their jobs at the Department of Water Management.
The emails, among nearly 1,300 provided by the city in response to a request under the Illinois open records law, include more overtly sexist and anti-black messages than those in an earlier, more limited batch obtained by the Tribune that also contained anti-Islamic insults. And the new emails for the first time reveal homophobic statements.
They also show that they were sent and received during a years-long period without any sign that supervisors, including recently ousted department Commissioner Barrett Murphy, did anything to quash the troubling chatter. And in at least one case, Murphy forwarded an offensive email to another department employee.
Many of the emails obtained by the Tribune go to the heart of an ongoing investigation by the city’s inspector general. The original sender of many of them is former district superintendent Paul Hansen, the son of a onetime alderman whose political connections go back to the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. In one 2015 email not long after the elections for City Council and mayor, Hansen boasts of his ability to “swing elections.”
Lawsuit alleges racism at roiled Chicago water department
That was sent to Murphy, whose City Hall connections also date back to the Daley years but grew under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor and Chicago first lady Amy Rule are friends with Murphy and his wife, Lynn Lockwood, the onetime chairman and treasurer of one of Emanuel’s political funds. Murphy also received many of the racist, sexist and homophobic emails.
For Emanuel, the scandal raises issues he’d rather put behind him as he starts to gear up to make a bid for a third term in office in the 2019 elections. And it comes with risks of political peril among key groups of voters that he has worked hard to cultivate: women, gays and African-Americans.
Emanuel has tried to restore his reputation in the city’s historically vote-rich African-American community, after the 2015 release of a police dash-cam video of a white police officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times.
2 more Water Department supervisors put on leave in email investigation
The mayor also has toiled to put an end to clout at City Hall. But the political connections of the supervisors involved in the email controversy harken back to the era when Donald Tomczak controlled the water department that became a focus of a 2006 federal corruption trial. Emanuel first ran for Congress during the Tomczak era, and political troops loyal to Tomczak helped the mayor win his first elected office. And Murphy, Hansen and other members of the group show up on a clout list presented at the federal corruption trial held 11 years ago.
Emanuel has taken steps to address the email controversy, starting in May when he appointed Randy Conner, an African American, to lead the department after the resignations of Murphy, Hansen and deputy commissioner William Bresnahan. Attempts to reach all three for comment were unsuccessful.
At the time of their resignations, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins said the mayor acted “quickly and decisively” by asking for Murphy’s resignation after learning of what was then an 8-month-old probe into the emails by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. That investigation started as a review of emails about gun deals tied to Hansen that ultimately led to the discovery of the offensive emails.
In early June, after those initial resignations, the Tribune obtained emails sent by Hansen that included racially insensitive, anti-Islamic and sexist messages, and the department’s newest commissioner announced that all managers and supervisors in his department would be provided with additional training on federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace
In late June, Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions. They have since resigned, according to a department spokesman. Attempts to reach Durkin and Lee for comment were unsuccessful.
A week after they were placed on leave, a federal lawsuit was filed alleging that African-American employees of the Chicago water department routinely were denied promotions, subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race.
In response to questions about the latest emails obtained by the Tribune, Emanuel spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier said the mayor “acted swiftly” to show his intolerance for the behavior and that “the folks implicated have been removed.” She said he backs efforts by the new commissioner to step up equal employment training for department managers and supervisors. “Finally, the move to take immediate action is completely consistent with the mayor’s efforts to eliminate clout at City Hall so that city employees are hired based on what they know, not who they know,” Breymaier added.
One jarring example of a racist email was forwarded from Hansen to Murphy in July 2014. It was titled “Watermelon Protection” and included an image that depicted a scarecrow, dressed in a white KKK robe and pointed hood, amid a field of watermelons. “I don’t understand,” Hansen stated in his message to Murphy.
Another racially insensitive email dates back to February 2013, when Hansen was replying to an email that Murphy first forwarded to him. The original message concerned an “urgent request” from ComEd to stop work near an alternate power line serving schools, a fire station and senior citizen homes until the main line was fixed so those facilities wouldn’t lose their electricity feed if it were accidentally damaged.
In response, Hansen wrote: “I think the only thing that the line does not feed is the center for the severely challenged negro midgets, you know the place, its where we hired all those laborers from 7 years ago.” Murphy then forwarded that message to another department employee.
Even an August 2015 note from Murphy describing an equation for calculating the circumference of a circle drew a convoluted, racially charged attempt at humor from Hansen.
Hansen’s message referred to the sex organs of white and black men, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, a Confederate flag, and Dorothy and the Tin Man. Within minutes, Hansen then forwarded the same distasteful message to Durkin, whose response included: “I’ll have to get back to you with my answer after I discuss this with the All Powerful OZ.”
Hansen also distributed emails with an anti-gay tenor, including a February 2013 reply to Murphy, who in oversized letters noted that the Gay Pride festival and parade would be split over two weekends. It also was sent to Bresnahan.
One minute later, Hansen replied it meant someone might be absent from work and would need an “inflatable doughnut on the chair” when he returned.
Hansen in October 2015 sent Murphy a link to a YouTube video titled “Redneck Homemade Bikini Contest.” The video depicts several scantily clad women on a wooden stage with a male emcee kicking of the contest by saying, “Here she is guys … let’s hear it.”
Hansen in March 2014 forwarded to Durkin, Lee and Bresnahan a joke that spares few in its offensiveness. It refers to a “world’s shortest essay contest” held for Texas teens that had to include elements of religion, royalty, racism, disability and homosexuality. The “winning” essay read: “My God,” cried the Queen, “That one-legged nigger is a queer.” Lee later responded, “I’m crying.”
The emails obtained by the Tribune show that as recently as April, Hansen was receiving offensive emails. An April message sent to Hansen referred to “HETEROSEXUAL MALE PRIDE DAY!”
It makes that declaration after showing photographs of steaks grilling, beer taps and a naked woman, and is preceded by this introduction: “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!”
One email was sent by a deputy human resources commissioner in October 2014 to several water department supervisors, including Murphy, who was first deputy commissioner at the time. It suggested they should take part in “respectful workplace” training on the issues of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
“Although (the Department of Human Resources) has not made this training mandatory,” it states, “there are several reasons that each supervisory employee should receive this training.”
The emails also show that Murphy often forwarded to his wife various news summaries, including one in August 2015 where Emanuel announced city worker health care benefits will cover gender reassignment services. “What the……,” Murphy commented.
Murphy’s connections to City Hall predate the current mayor. He worked for Daley in multiple capacities, including in the mayor’s office, and first started at the water department in 2004, when Tomczak reigned.
During the 2006 trial of Robert Sorich, Daley’s patronage chief, a once-secret clout list with names of politically connected people seeking jobs and their sponsors was entered into evidence. Murphy’s name appears on the list as the sponsor for one person seeking a job.
Murphy gained influence under Emanuel, who promoted him to first deputy commissioner in 2011 during the early months of his administration. In April 2016, Emanuel appointed him commissioner of the department — a position that proved relatively short lived because of the email scandal that surfaced in May.
Hansen, son of former longtime Ald. Bernie Hansen, 44th, also appears on the clout list as someone who sought a promotion.
During the trial of Sorich, prosecutors charged that Daley administration officials handed out jobs, promotions and overtime work to those who campaigned for Daley and his allies. Sorich was convicted for his role in a hiring fraud scheme to rig interviews and falsify documents.
Hansen, in one water department email sent to Murphy in March 2015, boasted of his political prowess in the context of a recently concluded City Council race on the Northwest Side. “I told you I could swing elections,” Hansen wrote.
Other water department email senders and recipients who showed up on the clout list include Durkin. The sponsor listed for Durkin was Tomczak, who was sent to prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to commanding a political army of patronage workers and taking almost $400,000 in payoffs from companies that wanted business from the city’s corrupt Hired Truck Program.
Two African-American former employees of the city’s Water Department are so afraid of what could happen if they testify against a co-worker, they are seeking police protection.
David Reed and Christopher Harris said they complained about the racist and violent culture at the Water Department for more than a decade, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.
“We tried to get relief. We contacted management, talked to the city’s Inspector General’s office, and the EEOC, and nothing happened,” Harris told me.
“Now the same individual that they allowed to intimidate us and harass us, they have subpoenaed us to testify against,” Reed said.
Anthony Nguyen was fired in May. The men are being asked to appear on Friday and again on Aug. 10 before an arbitrator in a hearing in which Nguyen is trying to get his job back.
The forensic scientists claimed they were harassed, threatened and intimidated by Nguyen and others and described a work environment where they were taunted with insults and racist cartoons even after they left the department.
A spokesman for Inspector General Joe Ferguson would not comment on this case.
Reed and Harris are now reluctant to testify, citing safety and health concerns.
“They apparently told him that we are responsible for him losing his job. We are afraid of this guy,” Reed said.
“We have expressed that concern to the corporation counsel. 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,'” Harris told me.
The men claim that even after they left the water department — Reed retired and Harris is on leave of absence — Nguyen sent them racist texts and emails and made threatening phone calls in the middle of the night.
Harris said he has an order of protection against Nguyen that is still in effect.
I was unable to reach Nguyen on Wednesday.
But a spokesman for the city’s law department said Nguyen’s firing is not related to the department’s shake-up over racist emails.
“The City of Chicago does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Department of Water Management officials enacted progressive disciplinary actions against Anthony Nguyen, which eventually resulted in his termination. He is appealing his firing, and we will strongly defend his separation from the City of Chicago,” said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department.
The “racist email scandal” has resulted in the firings of several high-level managers, including the former Department of Water Management Commissioner, Barrett Murphy, who has close ties to the mayor.
The Inspector General’s office stumbled on the offensive emails while investigating allegations that the son of a former alderman had used his email account to sell guns.
Last week, the department’s African-American employees filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the city of “unlawful policies, patterns and employment practices to create and proliferate a hostile and abusive work environment based on race that includes violence, intimidation, and retaliation . . .”
The behavior Reed and Harris said they endured while working for the water department appears to fit that pattern.
Harris said he got a call from the Inspector General’s office encouraging him to testify at the arbitration hearing.
“They basically said if we didn’t testify, Anthony Nguyen could get his job back and he should never have been hired and should never be reinstated,” Harris said.
Reed argues that the racist behavior is nothing new.
“We’ve been saying this ever since 2005. [Nguyen] was able to do all this without being reprimanded. I don’t trust any of them. They are offering us nothing. We can’t get our jobs back, any health benefits or protection. The city really doesn’t care,” he said.
It is unfortunate that these men had to wait so long for entrenched racism in the city’s water department to be addressed.
Hopefully, the city can give these men the assurances they need so no other employee has to go through what they did.