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Man put on city’s “Do No Rehire” list after failing to stop harassment and abuse hired on contract by four alderpersons

Monday, Jun 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is a long post, but it’s important, so stay with me. From WBEZ in 2021

The Chicago Park District is conducting a “broad investigation” into complaints that dozens of workers at the city’s pools and beaches regularly committed “sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, workplace violence, and other criminal acts” – sometimes against minors.

Confidential reports obtained recently by WBEZ show investigators with the park district inspector general’s office have already gathered evidence corroborating accusations against at least three male lifeguards for sexual assault, harassment or retaliatory threats against their subordinates – including one incident involving the sexual assault and attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl. The park district’s watchdog says its investigation is “wide-ranging, comprehensive and robust,” with more reports to come.

The probe began in March 2020, after the park district’s top official and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office received separate complaints from two former female lifeguards. Each of them alleged serious misconduct by “dozens of Chicago Park District employees in the Aquatics Department,” the documents show.

One of the two whistleblowers – who told the mayor’s office she had been sexually assaulted by a “more senior” employee when she was 17 – alleged “a huge incidence of sexual violence within the Park District” and said she believed there was “little support” from parks officials for those who report problems.

Last month, investigators with the inspector general’s office reported to the park district’s board and two of its top officials that one veteran lifeguard likely “committed criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse” in 2018, when he forced the 16-year-old female lifeguard to perform a sex act on him, according to the documents obtained by WBEZ.

* Not long after that story appeared, a Park District official appeared before the Chicago city council…


* Sun-Times in 2022

The Chicago Park District on Tuesday fired three top executives — and apologized to female lifeguards for dropping the ball on their complaints of sexual harassment and abuse — after a blistering report that exposed a frat-house culture tolerated for decades.

Fired were: Alonzo Williams, chief program officer; Adam Bueling, manager of beaches and pools; and Eric Fischer, assistant director of recreation. All join their former boss, ousted Supt. Mike Kelly, on the unemployment line. […]

The Sun-Times reported in August that, in February 2020, an Oak Street Beach lifeguard sent 11 pages of allegations to Kelly about lifeguards’ conduct during the summer of 2019.

She said she’d been pushed into a wall, called sexually degrading and profane names by fellow lifeguards and abandoned for hours at her post for refusing to take part in their drinking parties and on-the-job drug use. […]

It says the now-former superintendent first was notified of the woman’s allegation by her parents in an email sent to him on Aug. 30, 2019. Kelly forwarded the email to Williams and said, “Take a look and let’s discuss.”

The law firm of Arnold & Porter​​ found no evidence either Williams or Kelly did anything to follow up on the parental complaint. Nor did they report the allegations to the inspector general or the Department of Human Resources, as park district rules require.

The young woman followed up on Feb. 7, 2020, sending to Kelly and separately to Fischer details of heartbreaking abuse she had suffered at work.

Still, Kelly did not report the allegations to the inspector general or to Human Resources, instead giving Williams and Fischer yet another crack at investigating the young woman’s complaints.

So, Alonzo Williams was allegedly given the opportunity to investigate a young woman’s horrific complaints and nothing was apparently done. The full investigative report is here

We found sufficient evidence that Mr. Williams violated the CPD’s Policy on Sexual Harassment by not reporting Complainant One’s allegations to HR within five days of receiving them, and he violated CPD’s Violence in the Workplace Policy by not immediately reporting potentially dangerous situations.

Young women were forced to recite a “fight song” every morning or faced retaliation. I’m not gonna post the “lyrics,” but click here and go to page 13.

* Tribune today

Four aldermen have paid more than $48,000 out of their taxpayer-funded expense accounts to a consulting firm run by a former top Chicago Park District official who was asked to resign for his involvement in the Park District’s sexual abuse lifeguard scandal and placed on a do-not-rehire list.

Payments to a firm owned and operated by Alonzo Williams, the Park District’s former chief programs officer, began less than five months after Williams’ resignation in late 2021 after he was repeatedly cited in an independent investigation as among several Park District executives who mishandled allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the lifeguard program.

Williams was paid as an independent contractor for various consulting jobs by four City Council members: former Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, and current Aldermen Michelle Harris, 8th, David Moore, 17th, and Jason Ervin, 28th. Three of the four defended paying Williams with city funds even though he was asked to resign and banned from working for the Park District again. […]

In Williams’ case, the independent report found he violated the Park District’s sexual harassment and workplace violence policies by failing to report to the district’s human resources department allegations made by a former Oak Street Beach female lifeguard and her family that she was subjected to sexual harassment, assault, hazing, bullying and retaliation.

The same day the report was released in November 2021, Williams resigned at the request of Park District CEO Rosa Escareño. But two months later, records show, Williams launched 8028 Consultants LLC, and just two months after that he received his first payment from Moore. Records show Williams was briefly employed in Moore’s ward office before he switched to being an independent contractor.

And then by two months later, Williams was being paid by Alds. Sawyer, Harris and Ervin. He also didn’t file financial interest statements as required by law, according to the Tribune.

* Yep…


Also, former Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback.

       

16 Comments
  1. - NIU Grad - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:08 am:

    It’s sad that I was able to guess three of the four names before reaching the end of the story…Sawyer surprised me, especially since this was before his mayoral campaign.


  2. - Red headed step child - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:10 am:

    They laugh at the little people…


  3. - Politix - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:14 am:

    Local government officials flout the rules, diminishing and re-traumatizing victims. Simply inexcusable.


  4. - Amalia - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:15 am:

    some people have no shame. the person hired. and the persons doing the hiring.


  5. - need - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:17 am:

    Political class thinks they are untouchable… and they usually are.


  6. - education first - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:18 am:

    Each one of alderpersons should be investigated and impeached. There is NO excuse for encouraging a predator. Each one of the alders that are named have a responsibility to the women of Chicago that they are sorely ignoring.


  7. - Homebody - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:20 am:

    I will keep repeating myself every time these stories come out, whether about politicians, church leaders, business leaders, sports teams, schools, etc.

    It boggles my (expletive) mind that so many people are willing to cover up for sexual abuse and harassment of minors or other people with lesser power in a power dynamic (such as work places, young actresses/models, etc). Like it should be the easiest thing in the world to say “hey, this is bad, maybe we should take this allegation seriously.” But instead people seem to go out of their way to not just ignore the allegations, but to excuse them, and even actively protect the alleged perpetrators.

    I feel like I’m going crazy sometimes when I read these stories. How can so many thousands and thousands of church leaders, school administrators, politicians, etc. all think this is the right way to handle these things?


  8. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:45 am:

    Is anyone really surprised by this? Seems par for the course at this point.


  9. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 10:56 am:

    ===the right way to handle these things?===
    They know it’s not the right way but it’s the expedient way. Lacking in moral integrity helps rationalize it.


  10. - Lurker - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 11:00 am:

    Chicago politicians are a special breed.


  11. - JS Mill - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 11:09 am:

    Oooff.

    Williams wasn’t the abuser, but he allowed abusers (plural) to get away with it.

    And the abuse wasn’t somebody making crude comments, which would be enough to get fired, it was sexual assault, forcing sexc acts. That is as bad as it gets.

    Instead of hiring one of any number of people, they hired this guy? They need to resign.


  12. - JoanP - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 11:33 am:

    = Chicago politicians are a special breed. =

    Don’t fool yourself.

    This sort of garbage is not confined to “Chicago politicians” or the “political class”. it’s endemic in our society. “Boys will be boys”, “it was just a joke”, “she really wanted it”, we see that garbage all over.

    After all, this country elected a man as president who bragged about assaulting women. It wasn’t the politicians, but the voters, who gave him a pass.


  13. - Roadrager - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 11:51 am:

    ==Chicago politicians are a special breed==

    The degree to which this particular problem is *not* unique to the politics or politicians of Chicago breaks the scale.


  14. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 12:11 pm:

    ===Don’t fool yourself. ===

    Yep. Suburban Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback hired a former Evanston park district official accused of doing much the same thing as Williams.


  15. - Cool Papa Bell - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 1:17 pm:

    = the wall of the lifeguard room at Oak Street Beach contained the following fight song that the lifeguards had to memorize and chant every morning as they did pushups=

    The words are ON the wall. All you have to do is walk into the dressing room and its on the wall.

    I’m with Homebody, boggles my mind that people cover up criminal action. We deserve better.


  16. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Jun 5, 23 @ 3:21 pm:

    Was this done for Lightfoot?

    Harris was her floor leader.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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