The City of Chicago’s Department of Water Management is getting a fresh start with new faces after a probe into the department revealed overtly racist and sexist behavior from some of the high-ranked officials.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson spoke Monday about the investigation which resulted in three officials losing their jobs because of an “unrestricted culture of overtly racist and sexist behavior and attitudes” they exhibited, primarily through email, according to DNAinfo.
One such email featured the subject line, “Watermelon Protection” and contained an image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a watermelon patch, according to DNAinfo.
As a result of these emails, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already started replacing members of the department who are at fault with hope of reinventing the department with a higher set of standards. Commissioner Barrett Murphy and his deputy William Bresnahan were fired in May when news of the probe was released and Mayor Emanuel replaced them with Randy Conner, a city employee of more than 20 years whom he hopes will change the culture of the department.
Water department Superintendent Paul Hansen was also involved in the inappropriate behavior and sent several emails containing racist messages such as one subject lined “Chicago Safari Tickets,” according to Fox News.
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend this is what you missed,” Hansen’s email reads before listing a number of shootings that occurred around the city. “You’ll also see a lot of animals in their natural habitat,” Hansen continues. ““Remember all Chicago Safari packages include 3 deluxe ‘Harold’s Chicken’ meals a day.”
Sparked by Hansen, the probe was the result of accusations that the superintendent used his city email to negotiate arms deals. While federal officials were contacted in connection with the probe, no violations of federal or state law were discovered, Fergusson said at the City Council meeting.
Fergusson also revealed that, in addition to negotiating personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and sending and receiving racist, sexist and homophobic emails, Hansen was also using his company computer to access explicit YouTube videos.The sexually explicit videos were watched, sent and received along with explicit photographs “on thousands of occasions” in a four-month period, according to DNAinfo.
Hansen, along with Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, faced termination as a result of the racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamaphobic emails the Inspector General uncovered, but both resigned before being fired and have been placed on the city’s ineligible-for-rehire list.