A day after NBC 5's exclusive report on complaints by Chicago Aviation Department workers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday vowed to investigate the matter and enact "consequences" if the claims were verified.
"Zero tolerance," Emanuel said, "for any environment that’s created by anybody in authority that is a hostile environment. Zero tolerance. It will be looked at, investigated, and if that’s true, there will be consequences."
Five aviation employees, men and women, have filed complaints of abusive behavior from Juan Manzano, a deputy commissioner in the aviation department who is in charge of concessions at O'Hare and Midway airports. The employees said Manzano has bullied or threatened them.
In an unrelated development, NBC 5 learned Wednesday evening that three key people -- the general counsel, an attorney and the chief of staff of the aviation department -- have announced they are leaving. It is not related to the Manzano investigation.
Manzano has ties to several key political figures including longtime lobbyist Victor Reyes and several Latino aldermen. The complaints allege Manzano is verbally abusive and threatens employees.
Manzano, according to two sources, one of them a city official, faces five complaints from women and men who work for the aviation department. The complaints delivered to aviation officials say he bullies, threatens or harasses them. Manzano, reached by phone, says “I have no comment at this point.”
Sources told NBC 5 while some aviation officials wanted to hire a private investigator, the city’s HR department is handling this investigation.
In response to a freedom of information request asking about the complaints Manzano faces, Chicago’s Department of Aviation responded:
"The documents that would be responsive to your FOIA request are the subject of an ongoing administrative investigation."
The response also states:
“The documents that would be responsive to your request are being withheld to protect the identity and names of complainants to avoid chilling employees’ willingness to come forward with information regarding alleged workplace related issues."
Aside from this investigation, a year ago Manzano was the city’s point person when big changes took place at Midway airport’s concessions. Twenty-one total restaurants were closed, with new ones replacing those vendors. Those kicked out included McDonald's and Potbelly.
When NBC 5 spoke to Manzano by telephone, he directed any questions to Chicago's department of aviation. Its spokesman said she cannot comment on personnel matters. Several aldermen we spoke with when informed of the allegations that Manzano bullied employees told us “that is not the Juan Manzano I know” and say they have not personally witnessed that behavior.