County Commissioner John Daley on Tuesday rose to the defense of ousted Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy as African-American aldermen urged Murphy’s replacement to rid the department of its “pervasive culture of racism.”
Last week, a housecleaning in the Department of Water Management at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals swept out Murphy, managing deputy William Bresnahan and district superintendent Paul Hansen.
Sources said Murphy — whose wife is a close friend of Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule — was held responsible for the chain of racist and sexist emails sent by an underling whom the commissioner failed to discipline, even though Murphy was among those receiving the emails.
Murphy has been replaced by longtime city employee Randy Conner, who is African-American.
The Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report that Inspector General Joe Ferguson uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails circulating in the Department of Water Management while investigating allegations that Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
John Daley is the brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who hired Murphy in 1999 as Chicago prepared for the potential Y2K terrorism threat that never materialized and made him an all-purpose mayoral trouble-shooter.
John Daley also has his own ties to the Department of Water Management.
In 2005, another Water Management housecleaning swept out then-Commissioner Rick Rice and nine politically connected underlings accused of participating in a payroll scam.
John Daley’s brother-in-law and the relative of a key Hired Truck figure were among those purged for allegedly falsifying attendance records over a two-month period — maybe longer — by swiping each other in and out.
On Tuesday, John Daley rose to Barrett Murphy’s defense while attending a City Council hearing on job training by the city and county.
“This isn’t Barrett. It’s not. It’s not the Barrett I know,” John Daley said.
“The Barrett I know is a man who reaches out to and — he and his wife — have done so much for the community, the minority community and is very involved in the education of young people. Helping people who are disadvantaged and providing a strong education.”
John Daley noted that, on Friday night, hours after being summarily dismissed, Murphy and his wife, Lynn Lockwood, received an award from the Crossroads Foundation of the Francis Xavier Ward School for their work in promoting a Catholic education and in helping to raise money that was used, in part, to provide scholarships for disadvantaged children, many of them minorities.
Lockwood delivered an acceptance speech through tears. The prestigious Catholic school was started by former First Lady Maggie Daley.
“They received an honorary degree. That’s what they represent, I believe. He’s a man who reaches out to anyone he could help in any problems whatsoever,” John Daley said.
Asked whether Murphy is the kind of man who would turn the other cheek to racism, John Daley said, “No, he would not.”
Pressed on whether Emanuel made a mistake by firing Murphy, Daley said, “I’m not gonna comment. The mayor made his decision and he made it based upon information he has personally.”
Murphy hung up on a Chicago Sun-Times reporter seeking comment about his firing.
African-American aldermen applauded Emanuel’s decision to order the housecleaning in a department with a history of corruption and racism — even at the risk of losing two close friends.
Lockwood once chaired a political fundraising committee for the mayor. She’s an Emanuel appointee to the Chicago Public Library board who helped organize the 2012 NATO Summit and had a one-year, $160,000 consulting contract with the tourism agency known as Choose Chicago.
“If you are the commissioner, you act accordingly. Not because you’re [a] friend to the mayor or your wife is a friend to the mayor. You’re the head, God-dawg it. You act accordingly,” said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee.
Austin was asked whether the email scandal would be a setback in Emanuel’s efforts to rehabilitate himself among black voters who elected and re-elected him, even after he closed a record 50 public schools, but lost trust in the mayor after Emanuel’s handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
“How does that harm him?” she asked. “You can’t say that because you’re my best friend, that ’cause I go out and f— something up, you are responsible for it.”
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the “deep-seated racism and sexism” unmasked by the emails cannot be eliminated by firing three high-level managers and appointing an African-American to take Murphy’s place.
“Give Randy Conner a chance to go in there and make some strategic changes. I’ve talked to Randy. I understand he has the authority to make the kind of changes that are necessary,” Dowell said.
“You put in place systems where you can hold people accountable. That you can make sure that the people you employ are diverse. That there is a path to promotions that everybody enjoys. That there is equality. That comes with making departmental changes.”
Dowell said it’ll take a whole lot more than sensitivity training to change the culture in a department where clout has reigned supreme for decades.
“Sensitivity training is like the icing. But, we need to fix the cake. … You’re dealing with the last remnants of the old boy system that existed in the `50’s, `60’s and `70’s. But times have changed. The city is different. And we need to get with the times,” she said.
Austin added, “Now, people are gonna run for cover. They’re gonna be in hiding for a while. It’ll take a little time in order to get that done. Randy is not the savior.”