Your NPR news source
Welles Pool

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday that she picked former public schools official Myetie Hamilton to be the new Chicago Park District board president three months after the lifeguard abuse scandal prompted the resignation of her last parks board president.

Manuel Martinez

After lifeguard abuse scandal, Lightfoot picks new Chicago parks board president

Three months after the lifeguard abuse scandal prompted the resignation of her last Chicago Park District board president, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday that she picked former public schools official Myetie Hamilton to fill the opening.

Hamilton replaced Avis LaVelle, the politically connected public-relations consultant who stepped down in November amid heavy public criticism of the park district leadership’s response to widespread sexual harassment, abuse and assault allegations from lifeguards at the city’s public beaches and pools.

The park district board ratified Lightfoot’s choice at its meeting Wednesday. In accepting the promotion, Hamilton – who joined the parks board only in October – did not specifically refer to the lifeguard abuse scandal, which is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

But Hamilton told fellow board members she saw her appointment as “an opportunity in a time of change, and to forge a path forward in restoring trust.”

And in a statement, Lightfoot said, “I trust that Myetie will bring the skills and qualities needed to guide the system of the more than 600 parks in our city and strengthen our neighborhoods while improving trust between our residents and the Park District.”

Hamilton, 47, becomes board president at a moment when the park district still lacks a permanent chief executive and general superintendent to run the agency on a day-to-day basis.

City Hall veteran Rosa Escareño is in the midst of her second three-month deal to serve as interim CEO and general superintendent. But the search for a permanent replacement for CEO Michael Kelly, who also quit last year, is continuing.

According to her LinkedIn page, Hamilton worked for Chicago Public Schools from 1999 until 2017, culminating her career there as deputy chief of a group of CPS schools.

Her positions at the schools also included a stint as deputy chief of staff.

After leaving CPS, Hamilton became executive director of EPIC Academy, a charter high school on the Southeast Side of Chicago, according to her online resume.

She currently serves as vice president and executive director in Chicago for City Year, the nonprofit organization that’s part of the Americorps national public service program.

Hamilton joined the park district board at a time of major upheaval at the agency, as Lightfoot forced the resignation of Kelly in October, over his handling of the lifeguard abuse scandal.

The park district’s inspector general opened its investigation in March 2020, but the matter was kept out of public view until WBEZ first reported on the sexual misconduct allegations in April.

Although park district officials and the mayor initially defended their handling of the matter, an independent investigation blasted Kelly and other parks administrators, and Lightfoot said she was “outraged and appalled” by what had taken place at the agency.

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Education reporter Sarah Karp contributed to this story.

The Latest
Colin Hinkle, a professional drone pilot, noticed the red dye mixing with the green water of the fountain early Saturday morning and saw spray paint on the ground that read, “Gaza is bleeding” and “Stop the genocide.” 'That’s when I realized it was a protest,’ Hinkle said.
It’s part of a critical voter outreach plan in place since President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign as Biden combats Donald Trump and his army of online supporters.
Domestic violence with a gun is a leading cause of death for children, NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports. More than half of all mass shootings are perpetrated by people with a record of domestic violence.
Nearly a decade has passed since an Illinois politician as significant as Burke faced sentencing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The need to send a message to others is sure to be on the judge’s mind when she makes her decision.
Two measures to further protect transgender people are awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature. But advocates say the state can do more to help the LGBTQ+ community, including a push to require school districts to teach sex education.