A veteran state employee whose personal email address was a source of racist, sexist and anti-gay emails that circulated among bosses in the Chicago water department is retiring, state officials said.
Frank Capuzi’s decision to retire effective Monday comes as the state began a review of his conduct following Tribune inquiries into offensive emails sent from his address to a high-ranking water department official and others. Among those emails was one describing a fake “Chicago Safari” adventure tour that made light of the shootings of children in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Capuzi, an investigator with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, “gave notice of his retirement” on Thursday, said commission spokesman Ben Noble.
Noble indicated that the commission’s investigation was not over and said that Capuzi left on his own. “Capuzi freely exercised his right to retire,” Noble said. “The commission cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. It takes seriously these allegations.”
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Diana Rickert, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner, confirmed that Capuzi is leaving his state job. “We take these allegations extremely seriously, and we’re not going to tolerate any type of misbehavior that we are aware of,” she said.
Capuzi, 62, has worked for the state for more than four decades and makes more than $114,000 per year. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
He was a longtime GOP committeeman on the West Side, having won the 26th Ward post as recently as 2008 and the 27th Ward at least as far back as the early 1980s, according to records from the Chicago Board of Elections. He is the son of a former Republican state lawmaker, Louis Capuzi of Chicago.
Racist emails scandal moves beyond Chicago as Illinois opens investigation into state employee’s role
Earlier this month, the Tribune revealed that Capuzi’s AOL address was a source of emails at the center of a widening scandal in the city’s water department. The “Chicago Safari” email was among at least four of the most offensive ones that circulated among water department bosses that came from Capuzi’s personal email address.
Even though Capuzi did not use his government email address, ethics experts told the Tribune that this type of matter should be looked into to determine whether any violations of state law, rules or policies have occurred, including conduct unbecoming a state employee.
The Rauner administration’s code of personal conduct states, in part, that employees should conduct themselves “with integrity and in a manner that reflects favorably upon the state.” That code, a union bargaining agreement and the state ethics law are all part of the review, the commission said.
Racist emails show Chicago official joked about ‘safari’ tour to see violence in black neighborhoods
City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson uncovered a string of racist, sexist, anti-gay and anti-Muslim emails while investigating another matter in the water department. His findings led to five water department bosses being ousted, including Commissioner Barrett Murphy; his deputy, William Bresnahan; and Paul Hansen, a district superintendent and the son of former Democratic Alderman. Bernie Hansen.
The Tribune obtained nearly 1,300 water department emails from the water department via a public records request, including several emails forwarded from Capuzi’s address to Hansen.
The Chicago Safari email, sent in July 2013, states that if “you didn’t book a Chicago safari adventure,” for the Independence Day weekend, “you missed” the shootings of a 5-year-old boy and two others in West Pullman; the shooting of a 7-year-old boy in Chatham; and the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy in Humboldt Park.
“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,” the email reads. An image depicts four white people in safari gear taking pictures of black people trying to break into a car.
Others included a July 2014 email titled “Watermelon Protection” that included an image of a scarecrow dressed in a white KKK robe amid a watermelon patch; an April 2017 email titled “Today is Heterosexual Male Pride Day;” and a March 2014 email about an essay contest 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.” Chicago tribune Ray Long