Watchdog: 2 city workers out after sexual harassment investigations


Two city workers are out after being investigated for sexual harassment, the city’s top watchdog reported Monday, as City Hall works to address the issue highlighted by the nationwide #MeToo movement.

One of the workers was a construction laborer for the long-troubled Department of Water Management who allegedly harassed a security guard at a work site, according to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s most recent report.

“The employee grabbed the security guard by the hips and made thrusting gestures,” Ferguson wrote.

The laborer was fired and placed on the city’s do-not-hire list at Ferguson’s recommendation. The department — which is under relatively new leadership as the result of a scandal over racist, sexist and misogynistic emails — also agreed to provide refresher training on sexual harassment.

The other employee worked in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The “director-level employee on two occasions engaged in aggravated battery of a security guard, and repeatedly sexually harassed the security guard and a second security guard,” the report stated.

According to Ferguson, the employee “displayed his penis to the security guard while grabbing the security guard’s hand,” rubbed the guard’s leg “without invitation” and made inappropriate sexual advances and comments over a 10-month period ending in April 2017. The employee also made inappropriate sexual comments to the second guard over a one-year period ending last October.

The employee was placed on the do-not-hire list after resigning.

The report did not identify either worker.

Although Ferguson’s office investigates only sexual harassment complaints involving city contractors and the public, the inspector general “has seen an increase in these allegations,” the report states.

News of the alleged incidents comes as the city, amid national attention to high-profile allegations of sexual harassment against leaders in entertainment, news and politics, is making efforts to address the issue. Ferguson called those “steps in the right direction.”

Last November, the City Council added elected officials to rules barring sexual harassment of other city officials or employees. In February, the council closed what many viewed as a loophole in that ordinance.

In his quarterly report, Ferguson also wrote:

— Eight aldermen were notified that they improperly included campaign donation “buttons” on websites “that featured the city seal and/or presented other indicia of an official city or ward site.” Despite being informed that was improper, some unidentified aldermen continue to maintain those buttons on their sites, the report said.

— A Chicago Police Department deputy chief and lieutenant engaged in “a preferential treatment scheme to reserve and provide free street parking for off-duty law enforcement officers and their friends and family attending events at the United Center.” The deputy chief was reprimanded, but the lieutenant was not, with the Police Department saying the lieutenant “followed the directions of the deputy chief in good faith,” Ferguson wrote.

hdardick@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ReporterHal

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