By: Ray Long and Todd Lighty – Contact Reporters
Chicagotribune.com

 

Overtly racist, sexist and homophobic emails were distributed for years among a group of top-level Chicago water department supervisors. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Paul Hansen was a supervisor in the water department who allegedly used his city email to negotiate firearms deals. (July 18, 2017)

In a city scarred by a deep and troubling history with guns, a supervisor in the scandal-plagued water department used his city email account to negotiate firearms deals and make light of deadly Fourth of July violence in black neighborhoods by offering “Chicago Safari” tours, a new watchdog report revealed Monday.

The latest development in the ongoing investigation, which the Tribune first disclosed in May, emerged as Inspector General Joseph Ferguson detailed how ousted district water superintendent Paul Hansen emailed with individuals over personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars.

Those emails about firearms started the investigation over his use of a government account for personal business, which is against city rules. And it quickly spread to other emails sent by Hansen, who is white and the son of a former alderman, to other water department bosses, according to City Hall sources.

Newly released racist, sexist emails show scope of scandal t Chicago’s water department

In his quarterly report, Ferguson revealed a fresh string of anti-black emails sent to multiple high-ranking water department workers that touted a fake “Chicago Safari” package. It cited the number of shootings during a July Fourth weekend and guaranteed tourists would observe “at least one kill and five crime scenes” and also see “lots of animals in their natural habitat.”

Hansen’s racially charged emails included messages to fellow workers purported to be in “Ebonics,” sometimes called American black English, and a picture describing a swimming pool for a small African-American child who sits in a bucket filled with water while holding a slice of watermelon, the report found.

Ferguson also cited Hansen’s “Watermelon Protection” email that featured a picture depicting a Ku Klux Klan scarecrow guarding a field of watermelons, part of a cache of racist, sexist and homophobic emails the Tribune first disclosed online Friday.

Barrett Murphy, First Deputy Commissioner at the Chicago Department of Water Management- Chandler West~Sun-Times

A second figure noted in the report for anti-Muslim and anti-black emails was Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers who resigned recently after being placed on administrative leave while under investigation….

Still, Ferguson’s report raised questions about whether he found all the troubling emails. Ferguson said the mayor’s Law Department imposes restrictions that do not allow “unfettered access to city emails,” which has hampered the investigation. He said the Law Department requires that his office submit requests for emails using limited search terms and date ranges….

“The protocol allows up to 20,000 emails to be produced at a time, however, we greatly exceeded that count in this investigation and have accommodated similar requests every other time the Inspector General has requested a larger search,” McCaffrey said.

Hansen’s misuse of a city computer was so prevalent that, in one four-month period alone, he called up sexually explicit, age-restricted YouTube videos and visited other internet sites unrelated to city business on “thousands of occasions,” the report found. Durkin also was cited for sending and receiving sexually explicit photos and videos on his city email account….

At the time, the mayor’s office said Emanuel acted “quickly and decisively” by asking Murphy and top deputy William Bresnahan to step down after learning of what was then an 8-month-old Ferguson investigation….

Plaintiff Derrick Edmond, left, and attorney Victor P. Henderson walk outside the Sawyer Water Purification Plant at S.79th St. and the lakefront on June 29, 2017. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)

And Emanuel’s newly installed water department Commissioner Randy Conner, an African-American, said his agency “has a zero tolerance policy on racism and sexism” and “will continue to take all appropriate measures to fully enforce this policy up to and including termination, or separation” from the department….

In late June, Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions and now have resigned….

Ferguson said both Hansen and Durkin were designated as having resigned in lieu of discharge, and they will be placed on the ineligible-for-rehire list.

In another water department case, Ferguson recommended that a chemist who allegedly harassed a current water worker and a former employee be fired. Ferguson alleged the chemist made multiple derogatory text messages and phone calls, citing him for “aggressive and threatening behavior,” according to the report.

The department fired the chemist, who is fighting the termination.

 

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