Archived: Chicago Officials Use Work Email for Racist Behavior

As Chicago’s government offices remain in the spotlight regarding Black teen Laquan McDonald’s police-related death and cover up, a series of racist and sexist emails sent by high-level officials in the city’s Department of Water Management have been made public.

At least two officials in the department, which is facing a discrimination lawsuit filed by current and former Black employees, completely violated city rules for email conduct.

On Monday, the office of Chicago’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who has been investigating Water Management for months, tweeted a second quarter report including several examples of the racist emails:

The Chicago Tribune identified Paul Hansen, ousted water department superintendent, as the high-level official who used his city email account to mock the occurrence of shootings in the city during the Fourth of July weekend and liken Blacks to animals.

The subject line of one of his emails said “Chicago Safari Tickets.” The message said, “If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4thof July weekend this is what you missed,” and then it listed the number of people shot in neighborhoods such as Austin, Englewood and South Shore.

“You’ll also see lot of animals in their natural habitat,” the email stated. “Remember all Chicago Safari packages include 3 deluxe ‘Harold’s Chicken’ meals a day.”The email had an image of four white people in safari gear taking pictures of several Black individuals who are trying to break into a car.

Hansen, the son of former 44thWard Ald. Bernie Hansen, also sent an email with the subject line “Watermelon Protection.” Ferguson said the “email contained an image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a watermelon the patch.”

Hansen chose “U Know U Be In Da Hood” for the title of an email with photographs, including one of a “wheelbarrow full of watermelons with a sign stating ‘Apply for a Credit Card. Free Watermelon.'”

“As an apology Paula Deen Opens Swimming Pool For Youth,” was the title of another email.

“Below the text is a photo of a Black baby in a bucket filled with water, holding a slice of watermelon in his hand,” the report states.

And he also used “Ebonics,” a term used to describe African American Vernacular English, in his emails.

Hansen used his city email account “to negotiate personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars with private individuals,” the report states.

It was the purchasing of firearms that actually started the investigation over his use of a government account for personal business, which is against city rules. As Ferguson conducted his search, he uncovered the racist and sexist emails andinappropriateuse of Hanson’s email address.

For example, Hanson used his work email to “access websites unrelated to city business on thousands of occasions over a four-month period, including accessing sexually explicit, age-restricted videos on YouTube.”

According to the Tribune, the other figure noted in the report is Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers. His anti-Muslim and anti-Black emails as well as sending and receiving sexually explicit photos and videos on his work email account earned him a spot in the report.

After being placed on administrative leave while under investigation, Durkin recently resigned.

There is a possibility that Ferguson may not have found all of the vile email exchanges.

Ferguson said Mayor Rahm Emmauel’s Law Department enforces restrictions that do not allow “unfettered access to city emails,” which has hindered the investigation.

“He said the Law Department requires that his office submit requests for emails using limited search terms and date ranges,” according to the Tribune.

Emmanuel’s office said they were made aware of Ferguson’s investigation of the Department of Water Management in May, and the mayor requested the water commissioner, Barrett Murphy, resign. A new commissioner was appointed.

In June, seven current and former employees of the department filed a lawsuit in federal district court alleging that because they are Black, they were given less desirable work assignments, harassed and wrongly fired in some cases, as well as denied promotions and transfers.

The lawsuit states that “non-Black managers and employees” aim racial slurs and racially charged phrases at Black employees, including the n-word and “you people,” according to the Tribune.

Another complaint is that “Black female employees are called bit**es and whores on a regular basis.”

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