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Political hiring laid groundwork for racist emails, alderman says

Chicago City Hall. | Getty Images

Decades of political hiring and firing laid the groundwork for an email scandal in the Department of Water Management that exposed racial intolerance at its ugliest, the City Council’s Black Caucus charged Wednesday.

Black Caucus Chairman Roderick Sawyer (6th) said it’s not a coincidence that the email scandal that has already swept out Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy and four of Murphy’s high-ranking managers occurred in the same department that was at the center of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals

“The Water Department has been staffed at its highest levels by persons whose social or political connections were their chief or only qualification for the job,” Sawyer was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: Report finds city supervisor called African-Americans “wild animals”

“The emails have exposed that these individuals hold Black Chicagoans in contempt. It is especially troubling that their superiors in the department looked the other way and did nothing about this festering problem until it was made public.”

Earlier this week, Inspector General Joe Ferguson issued a quarterly report with several explosive new allegations about the email scandal.

The inspector general accused a manager — whom sources identified as now fired $122,280-a-year district superintendent Paul Hansen — of using his city email account to buy or sell “at least four firearms and five cars” and sending hate-filled emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals.” Hansen is the son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Hansen (44th).

Sawyer said he was not at all surprised by the sordid details.

Digital technology has merely “enabled us to see and read what would have, in an earlier time, been private conversations,” he said. “The demeaning of African Americans is nothing new. But these sickening comments and caricatures were conducted by public employees who are entrusted with the safety of our water supply, a critical task requiring the highest levels of integrity.”

Sawyer said he hopes there will be “sweeping change to the culture of this department” under newly-appointed Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner, who is African American.