Not looking good for Mayor Lori Lightfoot again as she attacks U.S. Representative Chuy Garcia in another racist rant for what she is known. It is not funny to make light of Mexican Americans when they have made many contributions to Chicago. Bugs Bunny cartoon characters belong in cartoons, not to be used to describe Chicago Mayoral candidates.
Editorials reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board, as determined by the members of the board, the editorial page editor and the publisher.
It might be tempting to brush off a lawsuit filed recently against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, as politically motivated.
Two longtime critics of City Hall accuse Emanuel and Burke of violating Illinois law and the state and U.S. constitutions. The alleged infraction? Allowing Burke, through the City Council Finance Committee he chairs, to administer the city’s workers’ compensation program. The suit argues that the program, which costs taxpayers at least $100 million per year, according to a 2016 inspector general report, should be run by a City Hall agency, human resources professionals or the Law Department.
The suit says the current arrangement — which is spelled out in the Chicago Municipal Code — is unconstitutional because it assigns executive functions to the legislative branch. We’ll leave that question to the courts. There’s zero doubt, however, that vesting complete control of the workers’ comp fund in a single committee chair, shielded from oversight, is a terrible idea.
Burke’s role as the gatekeeper of workers’ comp benefits for the entire city of Chicago invites cynicism, and rightfully so. The lawsuit alleges that Burke, who has chaired the finance committee for 33 of the last 35 years, leverages his position to load up his staff with patronage workers. The role also allows him to dole out favors as he determines the outcomes of hundreds of cases of city workers who claim they were injured on the job.
The lawsuit says jobs and disability benefits are awarded to precinct captains and others who help secure votes for Burke and candidates he supports. It says Emanuel has relinquished control of the workers’ comp fund to Burke because Burke helps round up City Council votes for measures pushed by the mayor. We’d like to see data to back up those claims, but that’s the point. Everything ends at Burke.
We have long argued, along with a few members of the City Council, that city Inspector General Joe Ferguson should have the authority to audit the program. Someone other than Burke and his staff should be reviewing cases and claims that involve public workers and taxpayer money.
But Burke, assisted by weak-kneed aldermen, has managed to wall off his committee from the purview of Ferguson’s office. The City Council in 2016 helped him by gutting an ordinance that would have given Ferguson the authority to examine Burke’s books. This was after many aldermen claimed to be in favor of it a year earlier, during election season. Then they flipped.
It was outrageous then and it’s outrageous now.
By comparison, Cook County’s workers’ comp committee, chaired by County Board member Tim Schneider, R-Bartlett, reviews and signs off on decisions that are made by experts in the county’s risk management department and the state’s attorney’s office. Schneider doesn’t have a staff. He isn’t negotiating compensation decisions. And the committee and its cases are open to the scrutiny of the county inspector general and the public. Cases that require a settlement eventually come to the full County Board for approval.
At the state level, it’s similar. Lawmakers who head up House and Senate committees on public health or transportation or education don’t actually administer programs in those subject areas. The agency heads and staff who work for the state of Illinois do.
The federal lawsuit filed by Jay Stone and Patrick McDonough — two activists with a long history of fighting City Hall — asks a judge to order the city to assign the workers’ comp program to the executive branch and to grant the inspector general permission to conduct an audit and claims review and to release the results to the public. For now, City Hall isn’t commenting.
We’re happy the plaintiffs are calling attention to an issue Chicago’s elected officials have worked very hard to duck.
Emanuel and every candidate on the ballot in 2019 should be on the hot seat regarding this question: Why should an elected alderman continue to act as a program administrator, in the dark, on an issue as expensive and important as workers’ comp? And why should he (or anyone) operate outside the watchful eye of an inspector general?
It’s a blot on Chicago government that is long overdue for a fix. Who will have the guts to do it?
If you read the below column by Fran Spielman, you have a great interpretation of the Department of Water Management. The City of Chicago Department of Water Management is the worst run water department in the United States. In the article, Fran Spielman laid out the termination (firing) (AKA retirement) of Michael Dwyer. Michael was in my opinion, one of the best foreman in the Department. The Department of Water Management rarely promotes people that are capable of leadership. When Michael was foreman, he was very competent although sometimes too demanding. Michael was very loyal to the Chicago Water Department and seemed thankful for his job. Not long ago, Michael was a shooting star and went from Assistant District Superintendent to Superintendent, to General Superintendent. (a non-union position)
When Michael was my boss, he was very direct but knew how to be thankful for a job well done. Michael also expected a certain amount of work. A good boss has a reasonable amount of expectations from people under his authority. When Michael was an Assistant Superintendent, his manners were outstanding. He made requests from the Investigator Crews and always prioritized by need, not by political connections. I never saw him request an emergency investigation because of an Alderman, or Commissioner special demand. So, in my regard, I rate him extremely high in the type of person that should lead.
I was not around when Michael Dwyer became Superintendent. I heard from many workers he was too demanding and making changes the political folks did not want. “He is stepping on the wrong toes”. I just want everyone to know, they fired Michael Dwyer. Plain and simple. I remember Michael was severely injured when he fell into a ditch years ago. There is a certain group that really run the Department of Water Management, I am going to do a story on these slobs. Just absolute scum. My friends at the Jardine Plant told me, Michael Dwyer was given an ultimatum of firing or retiring in just a few minutes. Time for Chicago Clout to work these scumbags out of a job a.s.a.p. Count on it. Randy Conner appointed Michael Dwyer, so this is on him.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 47 alderman approved the 2018 budget for the Committee on Finance (COF), Ald. Edward Burke had misinformed them about the number of employees working for his committee and the amount of money that the city was paying for their salaries. Burke’s budget list 25 COF employees for the 2018 fiscal year.1 The COF said in Feb., 2018 that 65 employees were working in the COF.2 Currently Burke’s COF staff of 65 has 40 more employees than the 25 COF employees listed in his 2018 budget.
In Oct. 2017 the COF said it had 62 employees working in the COF.3 Since the COF admitted Burke’s committee had 62 COF employees in Oct., 2017, it means Burke lied about the size of his staff when he and his colleagues passed his 2018 COF budget for 25 employees in Nov., 2017.
Off book means, “not properly declared for accounting purposes.” Today Burke’s committee has 40 off book COF employees because Burke failed to properly declare 40 of his COF employees in the 2018 budget. Simple subtraction was all that was needed to determine Burke’s 40 off book COF employees (see below).
65 COF employees listed in Feb., 2018 FOIA
(25) COF employees listed in Chicago’s 2018 budget
40 Off Book COF Employees
The COF has 40 employees whose salaries were also unaccounted for in the 2018 budget. The city is currently spending additional money to pay the salaries of Burke’s 40 off book COF employees. In February, 2018, the COF admitted that the current cost of COF employees’ salaries is $3.2 million a year.2 Again, simple subtraction was all that was needed to determine that the city is paying out an additional $1.4 million a year for Burke’s off book COF salaries (see below).
$3.2 Million listed for COF employees’s salaries in the Feb., 2018 FOIA
($1.8) Million listed for COF employees’s salaries in 2018 Budget
$1.4 Million for the Off Book Salaries of Burke’s COF Employees
Burke Stopped the Inspector General Ordinance to Hide His Off Book Employees
In 2016 Burke put together a coalition of 25 aldermen to block the inspector general (IG) from auditing and investigating his COF. There have been countless accusations of Burke’s misconduct during his 39 year reign as an alderman. Stopping the IG from investigating his committee is by far the worse allegation against Burke because Burke had a city ordinance passed to protect his wrongdoing. Burke was improperly hiring and employing his off book staff at the same time he blocked the IG from investigating him. Thanks to the City Council passing the ordinance Burke proposed, no one at the IG’s office can investigate Burke’s committee. Sadly, the IG conducting a simple audit would have exposed Burke’s 40 off book COF employees and the additional $1.4 million yearly cost to taxpayers.
Besides the $1.4 million a year in COF off book salaries, the taxpayers must pay for Burke’s off book employees’ health insurance and pensions. The city is paying for part of every COF off book employee’s health insurance. In addition, taxpayers are also contributing to Burke’s off book COF employees’ pensions.
Burke has 20 COF employees who earn between $23,108 and $29,208 a year.2 Burke pays 20 COF employees in the $20,000 to $30,000 a year range so he can hire more people for his COF staff. Burke uses his COF employees for patronage, so the more COF employees he hires, the more people Burke has to campaign for him and his favored candidates. Unfortunately taxpayers must continue to foot the bill for health insurance, pensions, and salaries for all of Burke’s off book patronage hiring.
Call to Action
Exposing Ald. Burke’s political corruption is one thing, but stopping the corruption and preventing it from happening again is the ultimate goal. Below are four actions that will stop and prevent COF corruption practices that come at a hefty cost to taxpayers.
Pass a Chicago Inspector General Ordinance that allows the IG to investigate aldermanic programs and committees beginning with the COF.
The second Mayor Emanuel signs the IG ordinance, the IG should start an audit of Ald. Burke’s Committee on Finance for the last seven years.
Remove Ald. Burke as City Council Committee on Finance Chairman. During Council Wars in the 1980s, a judge ruled that the City Council is a separate branch of government and has a right to organize itself. Aldermen don’t have to wait until after the 2019 elections to end Burke’s 30 year reign as COF chairman. How ironic that thanks to Burke and the rest of the Vrdolyak 29’s actions in the 1980s, a majority of aldermen may vote in 2018 to remove Burke as COF Chairmen.
Transfer the management of the Workers’ Compensation program from the COF to the executive branch of government. Except for Chicago no city or state in the country has a legislative committee managing it workers’ comp program. Professionals should run Chicago workers’ comp instead of a bunch of political hacks that work for Ald. Burke.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration was accused Thursday of “talking out of both sides of its mouth” when it comes to changing a hate-filled culture laid bare in racist, sexist and homophobic emails.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration was accused Thursday of “talking out of both sides of its mouth” when it comes to changing a hate-filled culture laid bare in racist, sexist and homophobic emails that triggered a housecleaning in the city’s Department of Water Management.
Attorney Victor Henderson represents six current and former Water Management employees — all African-Americans — who have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Department of Water Management of creating “a hostile and abusive work environment” based on race that includes violence, intimidation and retaliation.
Henderson’s claim that Emanuel is insincere about his commitment to change that hate-filled culture stems from two new taxpayer-funded court filings in the case.
The motions seek to dismiss ousted Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy and fired Managing Deputy William Bresnahan as named defendants in the case on grounds that neither man did anything wrong.
“The city is talking out of both sides of its mouth. You’ve got the inspector general saying there’s a culture of racial discrimination. You have City Hall firing the commissioner and others. And on the other hand, it’s delay and deny in the courthouse, taking the exact opposite position like none of this ever happened,” Henderson said.
“If they really didn’t do anything, they shouldn’t have been asked to leave. If they did do something, the city should acknowledge it. . . . What the city is doing is having it both ways — one way politically, the other way legally,” he said.
Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey stressed that the city “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
But he said, “Not all allegations made in lawsuits are necessarily meritorious. In this particular instance, there are claims regarding specific employment decisions that do not appear to be supported by the records.”
The motion to dismiss Murphy from the case was filed by former federal prosecutor Vincent Connelly, an attorney at Mayer Brown LLP. In it, Connelly notes that the “hostile work environment claim” against Murphy rests on two emails. The first was written by now-fired Deputy Commissioner Paul Hansen to Murphy in February 2013.
The second email was written by Murphy in August 2015, describing an equation for calculating the circumference of a circle, Connelly wrote.
“There is no allegation in the complaint that Murphy wrote any offensive comments at all. . . . There is no allegation that Murphy wrote anything else, but Hansen responded to this email with offensive comments,” the motion to dismiss states.
“Two offensive emails received and one forwarded in two years is not objectively severe and pervasive conduct by Murphy. Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for hostile work environment against Murphy.”
Connelly noted that in a “single sentence accompanied by a photograph,” the current and former employees alleged they were “subjected to racist images, such as a hangman’s noose in restrooms and Water Department vehicles.” The plaintiffs further claim they were “called names, including the n-word and `you people.’ “
“The complaint contains absolutely no allegation that Murphy, as a supervisor, participated in hanging a noose or in calling the plaintiffs names,” Connelly wrote.
“There is no basis for liability based on direct harassment by Murphy as a supervisor. Nor is there any allegation that Murphy was negligent in remedying harassment by others. Plaintiffs make no allegation that a co-worker hung the noose or that any co-workers called them names,” Connelly wrote. “Plaintiffs do not allege that they reported these incidents or that Murphy ever knew about them. There is no basis for liability against Murphy based on negligence in remedying harassment by co-workers.”
The motion to dismiss Bresnahan from the case was filed by Del Gado Law Group LLC, another firm hired by the city.
Although plaintiffs allege that Bresnahan “received racist emails from Hansen,” the motion states, “There are no allegations that any of the plaintiffs were aware or received these proposed emails.”
Last spring, a housecleaning triggered by the email scandal flushed out Murphy, Bresnahan, Hansen and two other top managers. Murphy’s ouster was a shocker because he and his wife are close friends with Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule.
Emanuel acknowledged then that Murphy “offered his resignation because he knew that we had to hit a re-set button” at the department at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals.
Last month, nearly two dozen current and former Water Management employees complained that the same hate-filled culture persists, even after a white commissioner was replaced with an African-American.
Emanuel responded by arguing that it would take Commissioner Randy Conner, who is African-American, a lot longer than six months to change a hate-infested Water Management culture decades in the making. But he categorically denied that nothing has changed.
Three more high-level employees are in the crosshairs in the continuing fall-out from racist, sexist and homophobic emails in Chicago’s scandal-scarred Department of Water Management.
Jennifer Izban, a $107,220-a-year assistant to the commissioner, has resigned. Izban served as a top aide to former Managing Deputy Commissioner William Bresnahan, one of the first to be fired in connection with the email scandal.
Stan Decaluwe, a foreman of water pipe construction paid by the hour, is facing termination proceedings. And Dan Misch, a $106,599-a-year assistant district superintendent, has been recommended for an undisclosed suspension.
All three were targeted by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails while investigating allegations that now-fired district superintendent Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
They are either accused of sending the offending emails or receiving them and doing nothing to stop the hate-filled exchanges.
Water Management spokesperson Megan Vidis said the three new cases were “part of the same investigation by” the inspector general.
Vidis refused to identify the three employees targeted for disciplinary action, citing privacy provisions included in the collective bargaining agreement. But other sources confirmed their names to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Vidis would say only that Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner had “initiated disciplinary action against three employees” and that “one resigned” while the “disciplinary process is ongoing for the other two.”
“Commissioner Conner has been and continues to be committed to an inclusive, welcoming environment at the Department of Water Management, and will not tolerate racism, sexism or homophobia,” Vidis wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Last summer, a housecleaning triggered by the email scandal flushed out Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy, Bresnahan, Hansen and two other top managers. Murphy’s ouster was a shocker because he and his wife are close friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen current and former Water Management employees complained that the same hate-filled culture persists, even after a white commissioner was replaced with an African-American.
A black woman said she was told she wouldn’t get a promotion because she “wouldn’t go under the desk.”
African-American men said they were denied promotions and overtime and denounced on a daily basis as the N-word with profanity attached.
Blacks of both sexes who dared to complain about discrimination said they were punished with trumped-up charges based on hearsay.
Conner did not attend that hearing, claiming he wasn’t invited. But he did send a one-page summary that outlined the changes he has made and the annual sensitivity training he has ordered to make it clear there is “zero tolerance for any racism, sexism or homophobia.”
The ugly testimony turned up the heat on Emanuel to settle a lawsuit filed last year by four current and two former Water Management employees – all African-American.
A few days later, the City Council’s 11-member Progressive Caucus demanded a second hearing to hear from the Departments of Law, Human Resources and from Ferguson.
It was Bozo who uncovered the hate-filled emails while investigating allegations about Hansen misusing his city email account.
Emanuel responded to the ugly testimony by arguing that it would take a lot longer than six months to change a hate-infested Water Management culture decades in the making. But he categorically denied that nothing has changed.
“You cannot judge [Conner] on culture because the culture of that department has been around for decades. But as it relates to the rules, he’s been very clear,” the mayor said then.
“I can say this as a mayor when I’ve had to deal with changing a culture around City Hall. You can’t judge Randy’s success in six months taking on decades of a culture. … You can judge him [on], did he make a clear line where people know now there’s somebody with a different attitude and a different perspective?”
Ferguson also accused a high-level employee whom sources identified as Hansen of sending emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals” with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets.”
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” the email stated, listing the number of people shot in Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore, Woodlawn and other neighborhood plagued by gang violence.
It concluded: “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.”
Alderman demands hearings on racist culture at city water department
CHICAGO SUN_TIMES 10/11/2017,
A South Side alderman on Wednesday demanded City Council hearings into the racist culture that, he claims, continues to permeate Chicago’s Department of Water Management — even under an African-American commissioner.
To underscore the point, Ald. David Moore (17th) displayed a photo taken in April of a Water Management truck with a noose hanging above the steering wheel.
According to Moore, the unidentified perpetrator of the offense apologized to co-workers who might have been offended by it and got off with a reprimand.
“It sends a racist message of hanging people,” Moore said, adding that “a firing should have taken place.”
Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner is the African-American charged with cleaning house in the department at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals.
Conner said the noose photo was taken two months before he took over and the incident was “dealt with the same day.”
“They approached the gentleman where the string was hanging in the truck…. He was very remorseful. He apologized for the insensitivity of it. And he removed it. That was it,” Conner said Wednesday.
“It was a slip-knot that he used for his own personal writing instrument. That’s how it was explained to senior management.”
Conner was asked whether he “buys” that explanation.
“It’s not about what I buy. It’s about what the senior managers felt was appropriate,” the commissioner said.
“It wasn’t about me trying to undo or go back in time. When I got there, I hit the re-set button on everything that was going on in the Department of Water Management. And since then, there hasn’t been another incident.”
Given the progress made and the sensitivity training held, Conner said he sees no need for City Council hearings.
“It didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. But, we’ve made significant strides,” Conner said.
“I reject the fact that this is the same place that it always was. In the four months that I’ve been there, we’ve let people know there is a zero-tolerance for these types of things.”
Moore strongly disagreed. He argued that City Council hearings will encourage the testimony of Water Management employees and shield them from future retaliation.
Michael Outley, a retired assistant chief operating engineer in the Department of Water Management, attended a City Hall news conference Wednesday.
Moore was joined at the City Hall news conference by a handful of retired Water Management employees who confirmed the alderman’s claims about the racist culture.
Former assistant chief operating engineer Michael Outley said he retired in July after being the victim of what he called “stalking, intimidation and violence in the workplace” that made his job untenable.
“It’s like this thing with [Harvey Weinstein] in Hollywood. They can’t go to anybody because of political retaliation and fear,” Outley said.
In June, a housecleaning triggered by racist, sexist and homophobic emails swept out Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and district superintendent Paul Hansen.
Four current and two former Water Management employees — all African-Americans — have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the department of “a hostile and abusive work environment” based on race that includes violence, intimidation and retaliation.
That includes less-desirable shifts and work assignments and being denied promotions, transfers, overtime and training opportunities. Black women were routinely referred to as “bitches and whores,” the suit contends.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson subsequently issued a quarterly report that included explosive new details about the emails scandal.
The report included allegations that the son of a former Chicago alderman used his city email account to buy or sell firearms and cars and send hate-filled emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals.”
Ferguson uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails circulating in the Department of Water Management while investigating allegations that now former District Superintendent Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns, as the Chicago Sun-Times was first to report.
Hansen is the son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Hansen (44th). The son’s checkered past with the water department includes allegations that political clout helped him get his job back after a DUI conviction.
Hansen was accused of sending an email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” to multiple high-ranking Water Management 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.”
Hansen was further accused of using his city email account to negotiate personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars and used 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. Paul Hansen’s DUI Video is also on Youtube.
Illinois Workers Compensation Commission revealed a new website, according to my friends at the OIEG and the DoIT Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology. After checking the website by Chicago Clout IT hackers, many of the website weaknesses have been exposed. Please make sure you completely check all the information to be correct before you go online. CAPCHA is not working correctly on the site and much of the information on the cases are incorrect. IWCC needs to make sure this data is updated and correct. Trial dates are wrong, current lawyers are wrong, time of court dates are wrong. What a mess.
Several new arbitrators have been names and have been appointed by governor Rauner. If you are an unconnected person and a democrat, you are screwed. Point blank. Most of the appointments are anti-labor lawyers. The main problem is the lack of experience in some instances. Let’s get the politics out of the workers Compensation system. Many injured workers are taking lousy settlements because they are so frustrated by the system.
The WCLA associated attorneys are really doing them a disservice. Many cases are going to be dragged on for years because lawyers do not want to present their cases to Rauner appointed arbitrators. The entire workers’ compensation is every bit as messed up as their website.
Welcome to the new corrupt IWCC in Cook County, Charles Watts, Steffen Ketki, Robert Luedke, Tiffany Nicole-Kay, Robert Harris, Thomas Cieko. Arbitrators are only 6 % black. I hope the Governor appoints more Hispanic, blacks to the Board. I know there is an abundance of Italians. Let’s pass the wealth around.
The City of Chicago Department of Water Management sent more employees down to an interview by the Department of Human Resources special EEO Investigator Unit. The City of Chicago Human Resources EEO unit is really used to receive information in case of a pending lawsuit against the city. Chicago is in the middle of several major lawsuits due to the mistreatment of blacks and other minorities.
Much of the testimony given to the EEO unit is given to the Office of the Inspector General. The Chicago Law Department is than given the information to defend itself in court. Rahm Emanuel is furious because he listens to Alderman Tunney and promoted Paul Hansen to Superintendent of the North District Water Department. Paul Hansen sent hundreds of emails to coworkers depicting blacks as fools and idiots. Paul Hansen would also discipline blacks prior to promotions and chances of advancement.
Paul Hansen also sat in interviews with William “Meathead” Bresnahan and determined the promotions.
Some of the folks interviewed today conspired to testify that they “saw nothing” and to let an employee subject to racial discrimination and retaliation look like a liar. This is part of the North District “no snitch policy” that is still in place. One witness was told, “If he fucking says anything, the ditch will fall in on him”. MANO ALIVE.
Well I do not know of a single accomplishment the EEO has made since this unit was started. We will soon let you know more. Most City of Chicago employees that end up in front of these goons get no protection at all. Or as one Union Representative said, “Just shut the fuck up”. “say you didn’t hear nuttin”.