Two Chicago water department officials have been suspended pending the outcome of a probe into racist and sexist emails.
In a continuing shake-up at the Chicago Water Department triggered by the discovery of racially insensitive and sexist emails, two more supervisors now face the potential loss of their jobs, City Hall officials said Tuesday.
Placed on paid administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions were Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, said Gary Litherland, spokesman for the Department of Water Management.
Their status is the result of an ongoing investigation by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, Litherland said. A City Hall source confirmed that it was the same investigation into emails that led to a shake-up that began in May.
That’s when Barrett Murphy, the former department commissioner; William Bresnahan, who was managing deputy commissioner; and Paul Hansen, who like Lee was a district superintendent, all resigned.
The Tribune earlier this month first reported that Hansen sent to Murphy and Bresnahan emails in early 2014 that included anti-Islamic and racially insensitive language.
Hansen also sent an email that included sexist language as he made fun of a colleague in response to a lengthy message that colleague sent to Hansen about a frozen water main. “After all that long winded jib jab that i could get plenty of at home with the kotex mafia, you going back!” Hansen wrote.
Durkin was the recipient of that email, which the Tribune did not report at the time because it wasn’t yet known that Durkin was under investigation. When Durkin replied, using profanity, Hansen sent him another reply that included further sexist language and copied Lee. “Love it,” Lee responded.
Attempts to contact Durkin and Lee were unsuccessful late Tuesday.
The emails were provided to the Tribune in response to an open records request. They include just some of the messages that are part of the investigation, a source familiar with the matter said.
The probe that led to the shake-up began about nine months ago. Ferguson’s office was looking into water department emails about gun deals when it discovered sexist and racist emails, sources have told the Tribune. Hansen’s computer was seized as part of that investigation, the sources said.
Murphy, the former commissioner, is married to Lynn Lockwood, who at one time was chairman and treasurer of one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s political funds and is a friend of Chicago first lady Amy Rule.
Emanuel last month said he was made aware by Ferguson’s office of a problem with “one particular employee” and “in that process, it exposed a culture in the Water Department workplace” that doesn’t represent city values.
He also said that Murphy agreed after the emails surfaced that there should be a reset in the culture of the agency, now headed by Commissioner Randy Conner, who moved over from the city Department of Transportation.
Hansen also has political connections. He’s the son of former 44th Ward Ald. Bernard Hansen.