Ferguson shines more light on Water Management email scandal

Joseph Ferguson Chicago Office oif Inspector General.jpg CHICAGO 10/17/2017, 06:03pm Fran Spielman
Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Tuesday shed more light on the email scandal in Chicago’s Department of Water Management in a way that raises questions about just how much has changed since the appointment of an African-American commissioner.
In his quarterly report, Ferguson talked about the investigation that determined that a “supervisory employee” he refused to identify “received numerous racist and offensive emails on his city email account over the course of several years and failed to report those emails” to his superiors.
In at least one instance, the supervisory employee provided an “affirming and acquiescing email response,” the inspector general wrote.
“For example, the employee received several emails in which the senders reference or mockingly imitated Ebonics; received multiple racist jokes via email and received several emails disparaging or belittling an African-American employee,” the inspector general wrote.
Ferguson recommended that the supervisor be fired and placed on the Do-Not-Hire list.
Instead, Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner reduced the punishment to a 14-day suspension, the inspector general said.
“DWM acknowledged that the employee failed to report receiving numerous racist and offensive emails, but noted that the majority of emails in question were also sent to three top-level managers, including the commissioner at the time,” Ferguson wrote.
“DWM stated that, when ‘one’s entire chain of command is on emails and/or engaged in a certain type of behavior, confronting the situation may seem untenable for a less senior employee….DWM further noted that the employee was the recipient of one of more ‘harassing and/or sexually explicit communications,’ which created a hostile or offensive work environment.” Sponsored by Dr. Jart+
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 at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals of “a hostile and abusive work environment” based on race that includes violence, intimidation and retaliation that “weave a tapestry of hostility that dominates every aspect” of their job.
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. Those who dared complain were also punished with “unfair, arbitrary and capricious” discipline, plaintiffs claim.
Last week, South Side Ald. David Moore (17th) demanded City Council hearings into the racist culture that, he claims, continues to permeate Chicago’s Department of Water Management–even after an email scandal triggered the appointment of Conner.
To underscore the point, Moore 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.
Conner responded by saying that the noose photo was taken two months before he took over and the incident was “dealt with the same day.” According to insider, David M. McKinney a Motor Truck Driver for the Department of Water Management had something to do with the Noose. Now that dude has some serious clout. According to sources, he went in front of Dwayne Hightower and got off easy.

Chicago Alderman wants hearings to address racism at the Chicago Water Department

Alderman demands hearings on racist culture at city water department
CHICAGO SUN_TIMES 10/11/2017,

Fran Spielman

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.

Racist emails scandal moves beyond Chicago as Illinois opens investigation into state employee’s role

State officials are investigating a longtime employee whose personal email address is a source of racist, sexist and anti-gay emails at the center of the Chicago water department’s burgeoning scandal, including a fake “Chicago Safari” tour making light of the shootings of children in black and Hispanic neighborhoods

The state began a review into Frank Capuzi — an investigator with the Workers’ Compensation Commission and son of a former Republican state lawmaker — following Tribune inquiries into offensive emails forwarded from his address to a water department boss and others.

The state’s actions mark the first time the email scandal has created fresh headaches for another government body.

“The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is currently investigating the highly offensive and inexcusable email messages from one of its employees,” said commission spokesman Ben Noble. “After a complete and thorough administrative review, the commission will determine what actions may be appropriate.”

Capuzi hung up on a reporter and did not respond to follow-up emails sent to his work and personal addresses. He has worked for the state since 1975 and makes more than $114,000 per year.

Capuzi, 62, 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.

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 address.

The city redacted the address in the messages released via open records requests. The Tribune through interviews and sources, confirmed it was Capuzi’s personal AOL address. It is the same email address Capuzi listed in the past as a contact for his political work.

Even though Capuzi didn’t use his government email address, Chad Fornoff, executive director of the state Executive Ethics Commission, said that this type of matter should be referred to the executive inspector general for investigation into whether any violations of state law, rules or policies have occurred, including conduct unbecoming a state employee.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 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.

The Rauner administration confirmed that the Workers’ Compensation Commission had launched an investigation. The commission is a quasi-independent body with members appointed by the governor and currently has six Republicans and four Democrats. “The administration was not previously aware of these emails, and the language used is inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Rauner’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.

The revelation of how the offensive messages found their way into the water department comes amid the city inspector general’s ongoing investigation into the sharing of racist, sexist and anti-gay emails among city water workers and their bosses.

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s findings have led to five high-level 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 Ald. Bernie Hansen (44th). The Tribune reported earlier this week that a private contract employee was caught up in the scandal and has been blocked from working on city projects.

The Tribune, under a public records request, had obtained nearly 1,300 emails from the water department, including several emails forwarded from Capuzi to Hansen.

The Tribune found that at least four offensive emails shared with Hansen and others came from Capuzi’s address. The email threads include the names as “Frank Capuzi,” “Frank” and “F. Capuzi.”

A July 2013 email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets” 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 shows four white people in safari gear taking pictures of several black people trying to break into a car.

The emails states that safari guests will stay in a hotel with triple deadbolt locks and window bars, but the safari guides cannot “guarantee Bell Hops won’t run off with your luggage.” The safari promises the rooms will be “99% free of drug needles and crack pipes.”

The Tribune on Friday obtained the Chicago safari email, uncovered as part of the inspector general’s investigation, through a public records request.

Another titled “Watermelon Protection” was sent to Hansen in July 2014 and included an image that depicted a scarecrow, dressed in a white KKK robe and pointed hood, amid a watermelon patch.

Hansen, in turn, forwarded the email to Murphy. “I don’t understand,” Hansen wrote in the email to Murphy.

There is a March 2014 email received by “F Capuzi” then forwarded by “Frank” to Hansen with the subject line “The World’s Shortest Essay — Gotta Love the Texas School Systems.”

The email contained a joke that spares few in its offensiveness. It refers to an 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.”

In turn, Hansen forwarded the email to Bresnahan and two other water department bosses.

Paul Hansen was a supervisor in the water department who allegedly used his city email to negotiate firearms deals. (July 18, 2017)
An April 2017 email forwarded from Capuzi’s address announces that “Today is Heterosexual Male Pride Day!” It makes that declaration after showing a series of photographs of steaks grilling, a row of beer taps and a naked woman.

The body of the email states: “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 fucking Democrats!”

Hansen could not be reached for comment. Capuzi’s boss, Robert Ruiz, said he did not know about the emails and declined to comment further.

Paul Finamore, a Chicago area businessman and longtime friend of Capuzi, was listed as receiving some of the emails and said he was appalled at the content when shown the watermelon protection and the shortest essay emails.

“Oh, my God,” Finamore said after he reviewed the emails at the Tribune’s request. “I don’t remember seeing anything of this, to tell you the truth.”

Finamore, the chief executive officer of Hairline Creations Inc., said Capuzi was a groomsman for his 1989 wedding party and that the two had hunted together.

“This man is a racist,” Finamore said. “You’ve got to know this guy. He’s a good, good guy.”

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Chicago Water Commissioner Resigns Amid Email Probe: Reports

Chicago Water Commissioner Barrett Murphy abruptly resigned on Friday afternoon, and details have begun to emerge over what caused his sudden departure.
According to reports from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, Murphy resigned at the request of Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he became aware of an inspector general investigation into alleged racist and sexist emails sent by the former commissioner.
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“We were made aware of an IG investigation into the culture at the water department,” Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins told the Tribune. “The mayor acted quickly and decisively, asking for the commissioner’s resignation and appointing a new commissioner to lead the department forward and change the department’s culture.”
Murphy will be replaced by Randy Conner in the role of water commissioner, according to reports. The investigation into the emails centers around Murphy’s failure to discipline employees that were sending the allegedly racist and sexist emails, and the IG investigation has been going on for eight months, according to the Tribune.
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“I want to thank Barrett Murphy for his many years of public service, and I wish him well in the future,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Randy Conner’s extensive track record of experience strengthening City infrastructure and improving City services for residents will allow him to hit the ground running at the Department of Water Management.”
Murphy is just the latest in a run of high-profile officials to leave the water department this week. William Bresnahan, the agency’s deputy commissioner, also resigned, as did Paul Hansen, a district superintendent of water distribution.