Three more high-level employees are in the crosshairs in the continuing fallout from racist, sexist and homophobic emails in Chicago’s scandal-scarred Department of Water Management.
Jennifer Izban, a $107,220-a-year assistant to the commissioner, has resigned. Izban served as a top aide to former Managing Deputy Commissioner William Bresnahan, one of the first to be fired in connection with the email scandal.
Stan Decaluwe, a foreman of water pipe construction paid by the hour, is facing termination proceedings. And Dan Misch, a $106,599-a-year assistant district superintendent, has been recommended for an undisclosed suspension.
All three were targeted by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who uncovered the racist, sexist and homophobic emails while investigating allegations that now-fired district superintendent Paul Hansen had used his city email account to sell guns.
They are either accused of sending the offending emails or receiving them and doing nothing to stop the hate-filled exchanges.
Water Management spokesperson Megan Vidis said the three new cases were “part of the same investigation by” the inspector general.
Vidis refused to identify the three employees targeted for disciplinary action, citing privacy provisions included in the collective bargaining agreement. But other sources confirmed their names to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Vidis would say only that Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner had “initiated disciplinary action against three employees” and that “one resigned” while the “disciplinary process is ongoing for the other two.”
“Commissioner Conner has been and continues to be committed to an inclusive, welcoming environment at the Department of Water Management, and will not tolerate racism, sexism or homophobia,” Vidis wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Last summer, a housecleaning triggered by the email scandal flushed out Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy, Bresnahan, Hansen and two other top managers. Murphy’s ouster was a shocker because he and his wife are close friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen current and former Water Management employees complained that the same hate-filled culture persists, even after a white commissioner was replaced with an African-American.
A black woman said she was told she wouldn’t get a promotion because she “wouldn’t go under the desk.”
African-American men said they were denied promotions and overtime and denounced on a daily basis as the N-word with profanity attached.
Blacks of both sexes who dared to complain about discrimination said they were punished with trumped-up charges based on hearsay.
Conner did not attend that hearing, claiming he wasn’t invited. But he did send a one-page summary that outlined the changes he has made and the annual sensitivity training he has ordered to make it clear there is “zero tolerance for any racism, sexism or homophobia.”
The ugly testimony turned up the heat on Emanuel to settle a lawsuit filed last year by four current and two former Water Management employees – all African-American.
A few days later, the City Council’s 11-member Progressive Caucus demanded a second hearing to hear from the Departments of Law, Human Resources and from Ferguson.
It was Ferguson who uncovered the hate-filled emails while investigating allegations about Hansen misusing his city email account.
Emanuel responded to the ugly testimony by arguing that it would take a lot longer than six months to change a hate-infested Water Management culture decades in the making. But he categorically denied that nothing has changed.
“You cannot judge [Conner] on culture because the culture of that department has been around for decades. But as it relates to the rules, he’s been very clear,” the mayor said then.
“I can say this as a mayor when I’ve had to deal with changing a culture around City Hall. You can’t judge Randy’s success in six months taking on decades of a culture. … You can judge him [on], did he make a clear line where people know now there’s somebody with a different attitude and a different perspective?”
Ferguson also accused a high-level employee whom sources identified as Hansen of sending emails describing African-Americans as “wild animals” with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets.”
“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” the email stated, listing the number of people shot in Englewood, Garfield Park, Austin, Lawndale, South Shore, Woodlawn and other neighborhood plagued by gang violence.
It concluded: “We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three-day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”