A supervisor with the Chicago Park District has resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct with an underage female lifeguard, the latest development in a growing investigation into allegations of harassment and abuse within the district.
The new revelations this week led several Chicago aldermen to call for the firing of Park District CEO Mike Kelly.
The supervisor, who was based at Humboldt Park, resigned from their post on Monday, according to officials.
In a timeline provided to NBC 5, district officials say they were informed on Aug. 26 of allegations that a supervisor had engaged in an “inappropriate relationship with a former seasonal employee.”
Officials say they referred the case to the Office of the Inspector General, but that office determined that the situation “did not rise to the level of OIG involvement.”
The district’s human resources department then stepped in, but according to the district the “alleged victim refuted being subjected to misconduct” while employed.
On Sept. 10, the district received a written statement from a third-party complainant that included screenshots of text messages, which included “reports of inappropriate communications, and choking done in a sexual manner,” according to the timeline.
Three days later, the supervisor was suspended, DCFS was informed, and the employee ultimately resigned on Monday.
Ald. Michele Smith says that the lifeguard environment in the Chicago Park District is “toxic,” and that the continuing flood of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse shows that massive changes are needed.
“This really demonstrates that there hasn’t been a commitment to zero tolerance of sexual misconduct,” she said.
Earlier this year, two high-level managers were suspended amid a probe into allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse within the Beaches and Pools Unit of the district.
In March 2020, a former lifeguard accused fellow lifeguards of subjecting her, and others, to sexual harassment, as well as sexual and physical abuse.
WBEZ reported earlier this year that the district was also investigating other claims of misconduct among pool and beach employees.
The district says that initial accusations of misconduct were reported in Feb. 2020, and that they have taken “immediate and long-term operational changes” in the aftermath of those accusations.
“The Chicago Park District has made both immediate and long-term operational changes to not just change the culture of that unit, but to ensure victims and witnesses feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns. That includes taking action against more than 40 Park District employees,” the district said in a statement.
A new Office of Protection has also been created within the district, which will be dedicated to investigating cases involving harassment, bullying and workplace hostility, officials said.
In the case that led to the supervisor’s resignation, Smith disputes the park district’s characterization of the situation between the supervisor and the underage employee as a “relationship,” due to the alleged victim being a minor, and called for Kelly to resign his position in the wake of the scandal.
“Everyone responsible for creating this culture at the park district needs to be accountable for it,” Smith said in a joint letter with Ald. Scott Waguespack. “And that extends all the way up to the superintendent.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the park district board has called for a special meeting Friday morning. It is unclear what will be discussed at the meeting, which will be conducted in closed session, according to the newspaper.