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Op-ed: The Chicago Park District lifeguard scandal. A slow-motion disaster.

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16.09.2021

The charges of sexual harassment of lifeguards and other aquatics employees at the Chicago Park District, and signs of serious government mishandling of the matter, have unspooled like a slow-motion disaster.

In February 2020, Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly first received an emailed abuse complaint from a former employee. He promptly pressed reply, thanking the alleged victim for bringing the problem to light. He said he’d get right on it.

Kelly waited six weeks before referring the matter to the Park District’s inspector general. The referral came just two days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot forwarded a separate harassment complaint, made to the mayor’s office. Kelly’s timing was no coincidence.

The Park District inspector general at the time, Elaine Little, began investigating. But resources were limited, and just two investigators took on the case. Even so, Deputy Inspector General Nathan Kipp made good progress. Too good, Kipp now says. He was suspended abruptly without pay or public explanation, Kipp alleges.

Kipp told reporters he felt he was punished for trying to expose a Park District cover-up. He claimed the Park District’s board of commissioners had a pattern of interfering with the IG’s work.

Not long after Kipp’s press availability ended, his employment did too. He was fired.

Little lowered the boom on Kipp. Then, this week, Inspector General Little herself stepped down.

Her departure came immediately after........

© Chicago Tribune


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