District implementing systemic changes; 42 employees facing consequences, to date.
Today, Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly announced he has taken disciplinary action against 41 employees in the Beaches and Pools Unit, including two high-level management staff. The Assistant Director of Recreation and Beaches and Pools Manager were recently placed on emergency suspension pending the outcome of the Office of Inspector General’s investigation of misconduct and abuse within the department. Kelly also announced the creation of a new Office of Protection, an independent office focused on safeguarding District employees and patrons.
Of these 42 cases, nine are directly related to the Office of Inspector General’s ongoing investigation of sexual misconduct and abuse within the unit. The remaining violations are unrelated to the investigation and being handled through the District’s normal disciplinary procedures.
The new Office of Protection will serve as an intake point for verification, assessment and assignment of complaints and concerns related to harassment, bullying and workplace hostilities. The new office will come on board in January 2022 and bridge the District’s Law, Human Resources and user departments with the OIG. Historically the OIG does not handle matters concerning sexual harassment and abuse. The Office of Protection will fill the gaps in reporting that typically exist.
Standing firm on his commitment to eradicate the culture of misconduct and abuse within the District’s Beaches and Pools Unit, Superintendent Kelly has implemented a zero tolerance policy for any behavior that threatens the health and well-being of any employee or patron.
”In order to facilitate culture change, it is imperative that I root out anyone who uses their position to prey on others or turns a blind eye to this despicable behavior,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly. “This is why, I’ve issued disciplinary action against any employee, where warranted. From the moment I was made aware of the allegations of misconduct within the Beaches and Pools Unit, I vowed to root out the bad actors and behavior, which includes initiating the investigation being conducted by the OIG, following any recommendations made by the OIG and supporting the office with additional resources needed to conduct this critical investigation. ”
Since the first complaint was received in February of last year, signaling the need for systemic change within the District’s Beaches and Pools Unit, Superintendent Kelly put forth measures that forbid misconduct and support victims and witnesses to come forward without retribution. To date, 18 employees have received written reprimands, nine were suspended, seven remain on emergency suspension pending the outcome of the OIG investigation and six employees resigned and were placed on the Do Not Hire list, excluding them from future employment with the Park District. Additionally, two employees were terminated and are also excluded from future employment with the District.
In addition to personnel disciplinary action, the Chicago Park District has taken several steps to support the investigation and address cultural and climate issues that could lead to harm, abuse, and fear. Superintendent Kelly called for immediate change within the Chicago Park District including appointing an internal monitor to oversee the Beaches and Pools Unit and named a new Deputy Chief of Programming and a Program Manager to increase oversight and accountability within the District’s Community Recreation Department. All Beaches and Pools staff is required to undergo various trainings including Keeping Children Safe, crisis management, and mandatory sexual harassment and misconduct training provided by Resilience, a local not-for-profit that supports survivors of sexual violence. In addition, the District has nearly doubled the OIG’s resources in the past year and almost tripled its funding since 2018.
The Superintendent is also establishing an immediate action response unit with guidance from outside counsel that specializes in internal employment matters within large organizations. The scope of work includes a review of the Chicago Park District Human Resources’ policies and procedures, employment plan and the Chicago Park District’s code. The firm will report its findings, and make recommendations.
The Superintendent and his executive staff will utilize those recommendations and implement institutional changes, including the framework for the new, independent office focused on protecting District employees and patrons.