Aldermen reluctantly OK $300,000 settlement tied to alleged sexual harassment at CPD
Without a word of debate, the City Council’s Finance Committee also took the rare step of rejecting a $125,000 settlement to a woman who saw the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Chicago alderman on Monday begrudgingly agreed to spend $300,000 to compensate a police officer who claims she had sex with a boss who threatened to torpedo her career if she refused.
Without a word of debate, the City Council’s Finance Committee also took the highly unusual step of rejecting a $125,000 settlement to a woman who saw the police shooting of Laquan McDonald while the black teenager, knife in hand, walked away from police.
Alma Benitez sued the city, claiming detectives pressured her to change her story and told her erroneously the shooting video contradicted her version of events.
“She has PTSD from the incident? She’s scarred for life after witnessing this incident and somebody didn’t treat her nice? I can’t give somebody $125,000 for something like that,” Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) has said.
The $300,000 settlement that was approved is tied to salacious allegations of sexual harassment; that money would go to now-former Chicago Police Officer Kelly Hespe.
Her six-year-old sexual misconduct lawsuit against retired Chicago Police Lt. Gerald Breimon lifted the veil on a sordid array of alleged sex-capades involving Breimon and his former colleagues at the Shakespeare District that covers Wicker Park and Bucktown.
Those allegations include: sex between cops during work hours; sex acts in squad cars; a police officer masturbating in his squad car and married cops having foursomes with other cop couples during their off-duty hours.
Breimon was once indicted on aggravated sexual assault and official misconduct charges after being accused of pulling over a young woman, ordering her out of the car, frisking her under her clothing and touching her breasts and vagina.
He was stripped of police powers and placed on desk duty, where he remained for nearly five years until the woman dropped her lawsuit and prosecutors dropped the charges.
He was reinstated without punishment and assigned to the Shakespeare District in 2008.
About a year later, Breimon began having sex with Hespe, a subordinate whose husband also was a Chicago cop, court records show.
Hespe says in court records that they had sex in squad cars, in the station house and in the police parking lot and that, when she tried to break things off their three-year relationship, Breimon threatened to use his mother’s connections to ruin Hespe’s career.
In his deposition, Breimon insisted the sexual relationship was consensual and said had no supervisory authority over her.
He acknowledged having sex with her in the police station parking lot “in her van before work” multiple times and having sexually charged conversations on the phone and via text.
Aldermen were incensed by the settlement. They can’t understand why Hespe waited three years to report the alleged abuse and why beleaguered Chicago taxpayers should be on the hook for the whole sordid mess.
“Why are we paying for their sexual behavior?” said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th).
“Somebody sexually harasses you for three years and you don’t say nothing in the Police Department?”
First Deputy Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney explained there was a “dating component” to the relationship between Hespe and Breimon but “over the course of time, there was an escalating course of sexual harassment and abusive conduct,” she contends.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) was not appeased.
“Why are we involved with someone’s sexual activity? It’s sexual harassment. I understand that part. But then, there’s a lot of consensual sex, too. It just don’t seem right,” Burnett said.
Rodney stood her ground, reminding aldermen of the evidence that would be presented if the case went to trial.
“Threatening voicemails between the plaintiff and the sergeant. Text messages from the plaintiff to the sergeant asking for him to leave her alone. Photographs of injuries she said she suffered as a result of a bag being thrown at her,” Rodney said.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) pointed to the sex-capades with other cops that Hespe acknowledged in her deposition.
“I can’t support a settlement on her behalf after conducting herself in this manner as well,” Taliaferro said.
“I’m not condoning anything that the lieutenant may or may not have done. But I can’t condone her actions either being a police officer on duty conducting herself like that.”
• Also on Monday, the Finance Committee authorized the city to spend $18.7 million in unspent bond funds from a street lighting program on a new touch-screen voting system that generates a paper ballot to be fed into a ballot reader.