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Inspector general’s quarterly report chock full of bad behavior — again

It includes the coverup of an elaborate scheme to certify several firefighters to operate sophisticated rigs at O’Hare and Midway airports. Records were falsified and a signature forged to hide the violation of federal safety protocols.

Ground traffic is seen from the control tower at O’Hare International Airport in 2015.
Ground traffic seen from the control tower at O’Hare International Airport.
AP file photo

Chicago firefighters who lied to make it appear they had been trained on sophisticated rescue rigs at O’Hare and Midway Airports when they had not, potentially endangering passengers.

An inspector assigned to nursing homes during a pandemic that has raged through those homes who claimed to have made site visits, when none had taken place.

All that and more is in Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s quarterly report. It’s chock full of the usual wrongdoing, plus some more serious violations that have the potential to make the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd infinitely worse.

Among the items in the report:

• Four Chicago firefighters retired or were discharged to avoid being pushed for engaging in and covering up an elaborate scheme that allowed unqualified personnel to staff crash rigs used for fire suppression and emergency response at O’Hare and Midway airports. They worked in those posts a total of 17 days without completing the rigorous basic training and certification requirements.

Specifically, Ferguson concluded a former assistant deputy fire commissioner had knowingly ordered underlings to place three “uncertified” firefighters on crash rigs at both airports and “change training records” to cover up violations of FAA safety protocols.

A former District 3 training instructor “reviewed and approved the falsified apparatus training log without verifying the information.” And a lieutenant “falsified the apparatus training log” by listing 13 trainings that had not occurred and forged the signature” of a CFD captain.

“In OIG interviews, [the assistant deputy commissioner] falsely denied directing District 3 staff to change training records and to staff crash rigs with unqualified personnel,” Ferguson’s report states.

“Subordinates’ changes at the AFDC’s direction resulted in false and incorrect records relied upon by [the Chicago Department of Aviation] and the FAA top show compliance … and ensure public safety.”

A former District 3 captain also was suspended for one day after “failing to renew” his or her Midway badge, then accessing the airfield with an expired badge nine times.

• An Animal Care and Control officer was fired for sexually assaulting two colleagues while off duty outside the office. The two victims both complained to a supervisor and asked “not to be paired” with the predator. But the supervisor “failed to report the incident to superiors and “openly” used profanity and called a co-worker who criticized the cover-up a “bitch.” The supervisor was suspended for seven days. When the Department of Human Resources and the Chicago Police Department finally got around to investigating the harassment, yet another supervisor and animal control officer “each posted images in the office that decried snitching.” The second supervisor was suspended for one day.

• A Family and Support Services employee was supposed to investigate complaints of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of residents of Chicago’s long-term care facilities, but failed to visit those nursing and rehabilitation facilities for “more than a year.” The so-called “elder protective investigator” resigned to avoid being fired after being further accused of covering up the neglect by falsely reporting having made “dozens of in-person visits” when “multiple staffers” at those facilities “could not recall ever having met” the investigator.

• A construction laborer at the Chicago Department of Transportation who was fired for making “unprovoked, offensive, racist, harassing and violent comments” to members of the public in direct messages on Facebook after the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd devolved into two rounds of looting last summer. The messages “continued a pattern for the laborer, who had previously used misogynistic and racist language to refer to a co-worker. The employee has appealed the discharge.

• A motor truck driver at the Department of Aviation was fired for making Facebook threats on the lives of fellow employees who came to work while infected with the coronavirus. One post said “the co-workers better ‘pray’ the disease did not ‘touch’ the author’s life because the motor truck driver would ‘take’ all the co-workers with them,” the report states.

• A contractor was prohibited from doing business with the city for falsifying weekly payrolls claiming to be in compliance with the requirement that at least half the hours worked on four construction contracts over a five-year period be performed by city residents. The contracts were valued at $162 million.

• A nurse at the Chicago Department of Public Health was suspended 10 days for abusing a patron who came to a neighborhood health center seeking a vaccine for his or her child. The nurse, who had a history of discourteous behavior, was accused of yelling at the patron, grabbing their wrist and pulling him or her into an office, reducing the patron to tears.