Ald. Pope rehired city worker who quit after harassment claim

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Nine years ago, Thomas J. Sadzak quit his job at the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation just as he was about to be fired over sexual harassment allegations leveled by a female laborer who said Sadzak threatened to rape her if she didn’t stop complaining about him.

The female laborer, Harriette B. McPherson, filed a federal lawsuit against the city, which paid her $99,000 on Aug. 22, 2008, to settle the case.

Three months later, Sadzak was back at work for the city, even though his name had been placed on the city’s “do-not-hire” list after his “resignation — in lieu of discharge.”

He had a new job, working as a legislative aide to Ald. John Pope (10th).

Sadzak, 48, is still working for Pope. He’s a staff assistant to the alderman, working out of Pope’s ward office in the city’s East Side neighborhood, making $57,048 a year, city records show.

Why did Pope hire someone on the do-not-hire list? He won’t say.

What does Sadzak do for the alderman? “I have no comment,” Pope says.

Has the alderman read the complaint involving Sadzak? “Thanks, but no comment,” Pope says.

McPherson isn’t surprised Sadzak landed another job with the city.

“I don’t think he should be working for the city, but that’s the way politics are,” says McPherson, a mother of four who works as a laborer on city garbage trucks. “He used to always say he had clout with the city. That’s why he was comfortable doing those things to me.

“Back then, Al Sanchez was the Streets and San commissioner. Sadzak was real close to him. They lived a couple blocks away from each other.”

Sanchez did 2½ years in prison for his part in rigged hiring at City Hall. The former 10th Ward powerhouse — who helped start the Hispanic Democratic Organization, which was one of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s largest patronage armies — sponsored Sadzak for a city job on April 14, 1997, according to the secret clout list that came out during the corruption trial of Daley’s patronage director Robert Sorich.

Sadzak, then 31, first landed on the city payroll on May 29, 1997, as a “sanitation laborer,” making $9.21 an hour.

McPherson started working for the city three years later, as a “hand laborer” assigned to a crew Sadzak ran in the 10th Ward, according to court records.

Over the next five years, McPherson said in her lawsuit, Sadzak repeatedly sexually harassed her, and Streets and San supervisors ignored her complaints.

“It is undisputed that beginning in June of 2000, Sadzak made sexual remarks about McPherson’s body, including her breasts, in the presence of hand laborer Nina Booker,” according to an order dated June 10, 2008, from U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning that allowed the case to go on.

“He also asked McPherson to let him touch her breasts in the presence of hand laborer Kenya Woods, passed McPherson notes titled ‘to-do list’ that contained lewd drawings, and made obscene comments to McPherson,” the judge wrote. “In addition, Booker and Woods saw Sadzak pull down his pants in front of McPherson on at least one occasion. On days when McPherson was not at work, Sadzak drove past McPherson’s home or repeatedly called her home phone.”

Sadzak Order

McPherson said she repeatedly complained about Sadzak to supervisors but that they did nothing to stop the harassment from Sadzak, who threatened her for complaining, according to court records.

“McPherson, Booker and Woods testified that Sadzak told them that if they complained about sexual harassment, he might rape them or have them fired,” Manning wrote in her order.

Streets and San supervisors say they knew nothing about McPherson’s complaints until Jan. 27, 2005, when she filed a formal complaint with the city’s sexual harassment office.

A City Hall investigation found Sadzak had violated the city’s sexual-harassment policy, and it recommended he be fired. Sadzak resigned on Oct. 5, 2005.

That landed him on City Hall’s “do-not-hire” list — a roster of 492 crooked aldermen, bribe-taking bureaucrats and others accused of a wide range of misdeeds.

But the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Sadzak and three others on the list ended up with new city jobs anyway. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration fired two of those employees, who were working as truck drivers for Streets and San. But the mayor’s office said it can’t fire the other two — Sadzak and Jesse Smart Jr. — because they work for the City Council, which had long refused to abide by the “do-not-hire” list.

Last month, the City Council agreed to ban the practice of hiring people on the list from now on — which allowed Sadzak and Smart to remain on the city payroll. Smart works for Ald. Walter Burnett (27th). Like Sadzak, Smart landed on the list after he resigned to avoid being fired over sexual harassment allegations.

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