Lawsuit claims Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to hide racist email scandal at Chicago’s Water department

Lawsuit claims Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to hide racist email scandal at Chicago's Water department


The administration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel allegedly provided “soft landings” for seven Department of Water Management execs who were forced out because of their online exchange of racist, sexist and homophobic emails, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to a lawsuit filed in Circuit Court Monday, six people who are current or former water department employees, all African-American, are requesting that City Hall release every one of the offensive emails exchanged between the fired employees. It is their belief that Emanuel’s team violated the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to cover up the severity of the scandal.

The suit seeks hefty fines against the city of Chicago and details of the “post termination payments” made to former Water Management Commissioner Barrett Murphy and six of Murphy’s ousted underlings including:

William Bresnahan
Paul Hansen
Michael Dwyer
Jennifer Izban
Irene Caminer
Lucy Pope Anderson

Personnel files for all seven are also being requested.

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Attorney Victor Henderson, who is representing the plaintiffs, has accused the Emanuel administration of stonewalling his Freedom of Information requests and heavily redacting the personnel files he sought in a cover-up that he’s referring to as “Laquan McDonald all over again.”

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That’s why he’s planning to use the same legal strategy that forced Emanuel to release the McDonald shooting video in November 2015; a case where Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder for shooting the Black teenager 16 times.

“It’s the same thing as Laquan McDonald. They didn’t want that video out because they knew the public would be in an uproar,” Henderson said. “And I guarantee that, when Black people see the full scope of these emails, they’re gonna go ballistic. That’s why they’re hiding them.”

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“They allowed these high-ranking officials to call Black people [the N-word], make these racist jokes. And then, instead of firing them, they gave them soft landings. The message to people in the Water Department and the message to black people all over the city is that, you can call Black people [the N-word], treat them like [the N-word] and it’s OK. No big deal. We’re gonna protect you.”

Water Management spokesperson Megan Vidis says Henderson’s claims are “intentionally misleading and without merit.”

“There are only certain circumstances in which an employee may be denied his or her pension, and resigning under inquiry does not meet the standards,” Vidis wrote in an email.

Earlier this year, Emanuel publicly defended the newly hired Water Management Commissioner Randy Conner, who is Black and who replaced Murphy, the former commissioner who is white, and perpetuated the racist, sexist and homophobic emails.

“It’ll take a lot longer than six months to change a hate-infested culture decades in the making at Chicago’s Department of Water Management,“ the mayor said.