Chicago Aviation Official Bullies, Threatens Workers: Complaints

Juan Manzano, reached by phone, says “I have no comment at this point.”

A high ranking city official is facing five employee complaints against him for abusive behavior.

NBC 5 has learned the city is investigating Juan Manzano, a deputy commissioner in the aviation department, however, he remains on the job.

Manzano has ties to several key political figures including longtime lobbyist Victor Reyes and several Latino aldermen. He’s in charge of concessions at both O'Hare and Midway airports. The complaints allege Manzano is verbally abusive and threatens employees.

It was a busy day at O’Hare Tuesday as the aviation department held a concession fair recruiting new employees to work for one of the many vendors. Manzano did not attend the event during the two and a half hours NBC 5 was there.

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 tell 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.

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