By JOHN BYRNECHICAGO TRIBUNE |AUG 01, 2019
Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the city water department called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot Thursday to stop fighting the release of records they say could bolster their case.
Victor Henderson, lawyer for the six plaintiffs, said city lawyers have been trying to stop them from getting their hands on emails, hiring records and other information they’ve requested as part of the discovery process in the 2017 suit.
The plaintiffs say African American employees of the department routinely were denied promotions, subjected to racial slurs and sexually harassed because of their race.
Noting that Lightfoot is an openly gay African American woman who pledged during her campaign to “bring in the light” to city government, Henderson said the city should cooperate with the plaintiffs’ requests.
“The city has a history of ignoring racism, a history of it, a sordid history,” Henderson said at a news conference at a downtown law firm. “This time around, it should be different. What we want the mayor to do is, tell the lawyers at the city and the lawyers that they’ve hired to stop fighting the request for the information. Turn the information over.”[
City Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey called claims the city did not provide documents in the case “categorically false.”
“In fact, last week both parties reported to the judge that discovery was progressing and no complaints were raised before the court,” McCaffrey said in a statement.
Henderson said his clients also want Lightfoot to fire Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner, the African American man who Mayor Rahm Emanuel brought in to clean up the water department when the city inspector general turned up racist and sexist emails in 2017. In the two years since Conner was appointed, the environment has not changed in the department, Henderson said.