A Chicago Park District employee told investigators she was trying to eat lunch at a parks facility in June of last year when a male co-worker asked her about her love life — and tried to show her a sex video on his phone.
A complaint was filed quickly. But the human resources manager responsible for investigating sexual harassment accusations failed to do anything about the case, and the complaint languished until earlier this year, according to a recently released report from the park district’s interim inspector general, Alison Perona.
By the time the complaint finally was investigated, both the human resources manager and the man accused of harassment had left the park district.
And officials now say neither of the former employees will be allowed to work for the park district again.
The case followed an investigation last year into dozens of complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and assault from park district lifeguards at the city’s public beaches and pools.
The scandal in the Aquatics Department led to the resignations of the park district’s chief executive and board president, and the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx opened an investigation, which has yielded criminal charges against two male lifeguards. A spokeswoman for Foxx said Friday the investigation was ongoing.
Now, Perona says she took up the botched sexual harassment case in February. The inspector general’s probe into the matter began soon after human resources officials for the park district found the complaint had been lodged --- but was not investigated for more than half a year, records show.
The woman who made the complaint told investigators the male co-worker started a conversation about “her dating experiences” and then attempted to show her a sex video when she was having lunch with another co-worker.
“She related that she moved away, but he followed her and kept trying to talk to her,” according to the inspector general’s report. “She added that another female employee entered the room at this point, and the male co-worker attempted to engage this employee in a similar conversation.”
The investigation concluded that a supervisor passed on a “prompt, credible report of sexual harassment” to the human resources manager responsible for dealing with such matters.
“The former HR manager took no action after receiving the complaint,” officials said.
Perona’s office recommended the human resources manager and the male employee accused of sexual harassment be placed on the park district’s “do not rehire” list. Park district leaders followed that recommendation, records show.
But the report from the inspector general does not name the two former employees who were banned from the park district.
Top park district officials also accepted the inspector general’s recommendation to forward the findings of the investigation as a “case study” for the new Office of Prevention and Accountability, which was created after the lifeguard abuse scandal “to rebuild trust.”
The park district board approved the new office in April, and officials say it “will be empowered to prevent misconduct and hold wrongdoers accountable through fair, independent and thorough investigations into allegations of misconduct by park employees and patrons.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the park district told WBEZ the agency “is currently in the process of posting positions to staff the office.”
The opening for director of the Office of Prevention and Accountability was posted on the park district’s website three weeks ago.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.