News Feature | May 18, 2017

Gun Probe Reveals Racism, Sexism At Chicago's Water Department

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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The Chicago water department is embroiled in a scandal that allegedly involves gun sales as well as racist and sexist emails.

City Inspector General Joe Ferguson uncovered scandalous emails “circulating in the Department of Water Management while investigating allegations that the son of a former alderman had used his city email account to sell guns,” the Chicago Sun Times reported this week, citing city hall sources.

The emails contained racist and sexist content, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“One source with knowledge of the investigation said the [City Inspector General’s office] initially began looking into emails regarding the gun deals and uncovered several that were sexist and racist, including messages about former President Barack Obama that dated back a year or two,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

“The disclosure that racist emails were sent about the nation's first African-American president added another layer to the scandal, given that Obama called Chicago home and his first White House chief of staff was Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” the report said.

The probe began about eight months ago, the Tribune reported. It has already resulted in an employee shakeup at the department. Water Commissioner Barrett Murphy was fired last week. One of his top deputies in the department, William Bresnahan, is also leaving. Randy Connor is going to be the new water commissioner, CBS Chicago reported.

The Chicago water department is no stranger to controversy. A former top water official, Donald Tomczak, served prison time for a scandal in which “jobs and promotions were handed out in exchange for political work that created an army of ground troops for multiple politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his successful 2002 bid for Congress,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Emanuel said the inspector general’s report revealed “a culture in the water department, in the workplace, that in my view does not represent who the city is, what the city’s values are,” according to CBS Chicago.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Labor Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Lake Michigan in November," johnpickenphoto © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: