3 city councillors ask Avis LaVelle, chairman of the Chicago Parks Committee, to resign after handling lifeguard sexual abuse scandals – CBS Chicago

2021-11-05 03:26:15 By : Ms. Jessie Lee

Chicago (CBS)-At least three Chicago councillors have called on the chairman of the Chicago Parks Board Avis LaVelle to resign after a severe independent investigator report found that district management failed to properly investigate widespread allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and bullying involving the park area Lifeguard.

Alder. Scott Waguespack (No. 32) was the first city councilman to call for the resignation of LaVelle and other park area officials. It was previously reported that the area had not taken steps to start the scandal before WBEZ Public Radio first reported the scandal in April. Investigation.

Alder. Michelle Smith (43rd) and Alder. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (No. 33) also called on LaVelle to step down.

"Chicago Park District needs new leadership to complete the task of keeping our parks safe and establishing an accountability structure," Rodriguez-Sanchez wrote on Twitter.

The Park District Board Pres needs to step down with all those who have played a role in covering up or failing to do due diligence to resolve this disaster. The Chicago Park District needs a new leadership to complete the task of making our parks safe and establishing an accountability structure.

— Alder. Rosana Rodriguez 🌹🇵🇷✊🏽🌈🏝 (@RossanaFor33) November 3, 2021

According to an independent investigator’s report, Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly, who recently resigned, took action only six months after receiving a complaint from the parents of a female lifeguard about abuse.

The Arnold & Porter law firm’s report on Tuesday and another report from the district inspector general detailed multiple allegations of sexual assault by Park District’s lifeguards and Park District’s alleged management “mishandling of complaints”—and what led to this. In this case, the organization failed so the victim was not protected.

As Tara Molina of CBS Radio 2 reported, the report detailed the harsh allegations of Chicago lifeguards ranging from sexual harassment to bullying. One woman called it a “culture” of violence. And claimed that there is a "silence criterion."

Read the report below (Warning: the report contains offensive language and detailed descriptions of attacks and abuse)

Report from the Office of the Inspector General Park District

View this document on Scribd

Arnold & Porter Law Firm Report

View this document on Scribd

LaVelle has stated that she apologizes to girls and young women who have been beaten, abused and harassed; but has stated that she will not step down.

She also accused Kelly of not immediately launching a full investigation into complaints of widespread sexual assault, abuse and harassment of girls and young women working as lifeguards in the city’s swimming pools and beaches, and assured LaVille and others that he handled the complaints properly.

"Throughout the process, former Superintendent Mike Kelly has repeatedly assured me that management is taking corrective measures to resolve these issues system-wide," Lavelle said. "What I didn't expect was that it would take so long to hold those responsible people accountable."

However, she also admitted that she was responsible for the school district's handling of the scandal.

"It is unacceptable for any of this situation to continue to occur. It is unacceptable. It started long before any of us, I know, here. All of this is unacceptable, as an exposure in this matter People who sit in this chair at the time, I take on my own responsibilities," she said. "I can't be responsible for the people before me. I can be responsible for my part, and I have accepted it. I made a mistake. This is a dysfunctional investigation process. This is a dysfunctional reaction process."

Smith said that neither the independent investigator's findings nor LaVelle's statement changed her view that LaVelle should resign.

"Considering systematic and persistent sexual abuse and harassment for more than three years as something that has not been dealt with in a'timely' manner, this shows that Ms. Lavelle has an alarming tone of deafness and failure to accept the responsibility of being chairman," she said on Twitter In the statement issued.

My statement on today's park area report: pic.twitter.com/VOCHMpPPSt

— Alder. Michelle Smith (@AldermanSmith43) November 2, 2021

At the same time, Rosa Escareño, chief executive officer and general manager of the Temporary Park District, asked Alonzo Williams, the chief planning officer of the Park District, to resign on Tuesday. Kelly notified him of the sexual misconduct complaint as early as August 2019, but No corrective measures have been taken. Escareño also fired two senior managers-Eric Fischer, Assistant Director of Entertainment and Adam Bueling, Manager of the Beach and Pool Department-because they also failed to take appropriate action on allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to the information Kelly received from the inspector general, the last two senior executives were all suspended from their posts in an emergency last month.

After Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked the park district board to fire him to deal with the scandal, Kelly resigned as the head of the park district earlier this month.

Kelly's resignation came a few weeks after the resignation of Chicago Park District Inspector Elaine Little, while her office was investigating widespread sexual harassment against female lifeguards.

Little’s resignation took place after WBEZ, and Chicago Public Radio reported that Little was accepting “suspicion of conflict and misconduct” after leaving the post of investigative director of the Cook County Youth Temporary Detention Center three years ago. Investigation.

In August, Kelly stated that since the investigation into lifeguard harassment began in March last year, the investigation by Little's office has resulted in disciplinary actions against 42 employees.

Since then, a total of 14 park area employees have been fired or prevented from rehiring, and as the investigation continues, four employees are still in emergency suspension.

The two reports detail multiple specific allegations of sexual assault and abuse, as well as harassment and bullying. There are currently 27 public investigations.

The report of the Office of Inspection details four allegations dating back to 2015.

According to reports, that year, a 20-year-old swimming pool coach sexually assaulted a 17-year-old female colleague at a party. The victim was ridiculed and ridiculed by his colleague the next day. The victim said that she did not report the attack because she was ashamed and scared, and did not believe that the park district supervisor would properly handle the complaint according to the culture of the water sports department.

Investigators later learned of another allegation involving the same coach and another female lifeguard in 2019. The 21-year-old female lifeguard also said that she did not report the incident because she thought no one would believe her, the report said. The inspector general recommended that the instructor be dismissed and designated as "not re-employed."

In another complaint dating back to 2016, an 18-year-old male lifeguard was accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague after she offered to drive home while she was drunk at a party. According to reports, the victim was ridiculed by colleagues when he returned to work. The report added that the same male lifeguard harassed her the following summer and gave her unpopular work assignments, which she believed was revenge.

According to reports, the female lifeguard refused to report the incident to the police, and the male lifeguard was first suspended and then resigned. He declined to be interviewed by the investigation, but the Office of Supervision suggested that he should also be included in the "no re-employment" list.

Another 16-year-old female lifeguard reported that in 2020, she began a voluntary and intimate relationship with an 18-year-old male lifeguard and provided him with nude photos-but the result was widely shared on social media. The female lifeguard also reported that the male lifeguard later sexually assaulted her while driving home.

Another 19-year-old female lifeguard also complained to the park area, claiming that the same male lifeguard repeatedly harassed her, intimidated other employees, and yelled at park visitors. The lifeguard also resigned and was recommended to enter the "not hired" list.

The fourth complaint in the OIG report is the only complaint that has led to criminal charges so far. According to reports, in August this year, investigators learned that a 32-year-old male lifeguard supervisor had sex with a 16-year-old female lifeguard under his supervision.

Authorities announced last week that the 32-year-old supervisor, Mauricio Ramirez, was charged with one crime each of criminal sexual assault and one crime of serious criminal sexual abuse.

Mauricio Ramirez (Image source: Chicago Police)

Mauricio Ramirez (Image source: Chicago Police)

The Cook County prosecutor said Ramirez was the girl’s supervisor because she served as a lifeguard this summer. When he started talking to her in July, Ramirez knew her age very well, and she told him she was Is a 16-year-old high school student. School. The prosecutor said that between July and September, Ramirez had picked up the girl from school in his car twice, later stopped her and sexually assaulted her, and then took her home.

In August, he also drove her home from get off work, and on the way home, he sexually assaulted her, the prosecutor said.

In response to the Ombudsman’s report, Escareño took immediate action to ensure that a male lifeguard still working in the park area would be fired and that these four people would not be employed by the park area in the future.

At the same time, the Arnold & Porter report further detailed multiple allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct among lifeguards in the park area. The law firm stated that it found sufficient evidence that Kelly violated the Park District’s policy on sexual harassment because he did not report the complaint to OIG until six months after receiving the complaint.

Williams, Fischer and Bueling were also accused of failing to take appropriate action.

The complaint in this case comes from a female lifeguard who reported that she was sexually harassed, assaulted, bullied, bullied and other abuses while working at Oak Street Beach.

The law firm’s report stated that on August 30, 2019, Kelly received an email from the father of a female lifeguard, who was described as Kelly’s friend and had business dealings with him. Father suggested that Kelly should send someone to delete the "battle song" posted on the wall of the lifeguard trailer on Oak Street Beach before the news or someone runs.

The mother of the female lifeguard went on to elaborate on the allegations. She said that lifeguards were asked to remember the "battle song", which consisted of a series of vulgar images and sang like they do push-ups every morning. The mother also said that lifeguards—most of whom are women—are often thrown into a five-foot-deep hole in the sand, where they degenerate by being thrown on the ground by the sand.

Lifeguards were also threatened by bullying—including the insult of having to stand on the windowsill for five consecutive hours, the mother reported. She further reported that her daughter was thrown onto the locker by an older male guard, and that the lifeguard received a mocking and insulting reward at an employee banquet-it was so embarrassing that a young woman Walked into the bathroom and cried for the rest of the time. night.

The law firm’s report stated that Kelly responded to these complaints by forwarding an email with the message to Williams. "Look at it and let's discuss it." The law firm said it did not find any evidence that any further action was taken at that time.

More than five months later, on February 7, 2020, the female lifeguard sent an e-mail to Kelly and Fisher herself, detailing what she said happened the previous summer-at the time she 17 years old. Her own report was consistent with her mother's report last August, but she broke down more details-including the names of about seven lifeguards involved in the misconduct she said.

The young woman also reported bullying rituals in which novice lifeguards-usually minors-were forced to drink alcoholic beverages while repeatedly singing vulgar combat songs in a push-up posture until all the words It's all right. She reported that every novice lifeguard had a few pints of beer tied to her hand, and when she refused to drink, a guard tried to push a bottle of Volta into her throat.

The law firm reported that the young woman also reported that she was abused by a male lifeguard with an insulting name and other remarks, hitting the back of the neck hard and threatening if she did not drink or smoke marijuana , Will be retaliated against. Said. She also detailed the practice of the female lifeguard being thrown into the hole and being thrown into the sand, as well as the taunt award at the end of the season banquet.

The young woman expressed concern that someone might be killed or permanently injured by the "so-called stupidity of a professional lifeguard", that a girl might be sexually assaulted by a lifeguard with an "abnormal state of mind", and the report stated that abuse might lead to Someone committed suicide.

The legal form report stated that Kelly sent the young woman’s complaint to the Ombudsman on March 19, 2020, that is, 41 days after he received the complaint, and the first time he received news from the young woman’s parents Six months later.

The law firm also reported that another female lifeguard who had worked in the park area for six years complained to Mayor Lori Lightfoot about her experience on March 6, 2020, and sent the same complaint to Bueling three days later . The report stated that the mayor's office forwarded the complaint to Kelly on March 19, 2020.

In her complaint, the young woman reported that five years ago, at the age of 17, she was sexually assaulted by a male lifeguard, who was about 20 years old, and was ridiculed by her colleagues afterwards.

The young woman wrote that “a lot of sexual violence occurred in the park area-from sexual harassment to sexual assault and rape” and reported that sexually inappropriate comments and jokes are common even during working hours. She also described a silent criterion in the park area, in which no one commented inappropriately, and almost no one supported anyone who wanted to submit a report.

"Employees saw how perpetrators of sexual violence were promoted to management positions or allowed to continue to work in their current positions even after complaints were filed against them," she wrote in a law firm report. "When a complaint is indeed filed, the response is usually mild. In most cases, the employee will be moved to another place for a few days as a'punishment' and then immediately jump back to the original place."

Based on the responses of Kelly and other park district officials, the report concluded that they did not take appropriate action against the female lifeguard's complaint.

Escareño said: "We have a responsibility to take allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, and those in power failed to perform their duties and failed for it." "On behalf of the Chicago Park District, I am sorry."

At the same time, in a statement issued on Monday, Avis LaVelle, chairman of the Chicago Park District Committee, stated that the park district “expresses sincere apologies and gratitude to brave young women who have come forward to share the humiliation and humiliation they have suffered. A painful story of abuse. A colleague and supervisor who worked as a lifeguard in the Chicago park area."

LaVelle said that since they went to OIG in March 2020, the allegations of female lifeguards have been taken seriously, but the investigation was ultimately "dysfunctional." In particular, she stated that the Park District Inspection Office, established by Kelly and former Park District President Brian Traubert in 2013, did not envisage investigating allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

"I got the assurance from the former Supt. Throughout the process, Mike Kelly's management is taking corrective measures to resolve these system-wide problems," LaVell wrote. "What I didn't expect was that it would take so long to hold those responsible people accountable."

LaVelle wrote that in response to the failure of the investigation, the Park District Committee is "seizing this opportunity to examine the structure, scope of work, accountability of our OIG office, and its reporting relationship to the Chicago Park District and the committee. Committee."

LaVille wrote: “It’s heartbreaking to learn that young people who come to the park as a haven or a wonderful summer job like me are being abused are heartbreaking, and it’s shocking to learn how long this shameful behavior has existed,” Lavelle wrote. .

The Park District stated that it will use the findings in the report to overhaul its policies and procedures for investigating complaints of sexual harassment or assault. The plan calls for a new protection office to be responsible for investigating sexual harassment and misconduct and all other banned cats.

"It is vital that in order to help establish a new workplace culture, Park District is prioritizing providing support resources for sexual assault survivors and ensuring that all employees receive adequate training to prevent and report sexual assaults," Park District said.

The Mayor of Lightfoot also issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon praising the female lifeguard who filed a complaint of abuse and expressed indignation at the results of the investigation.

"The results of the independent investigation announced today confirmed the claims of many young women who bravely stood up to expose the truth and called for justice and accountability. As I have said time and again, the The investigation of the allegations must be conducted with integrity and completely independently.

"I am angry and shocked by the results of these investigations, especially those who indicated that they were entrusted to lead the park area were aware of these heinous allegations of bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and assault and chose to rarely respond. Obviously, along the way The senior leaders in the park area never took these complaints seriously. Until recently, the investigation itself was hampered by unacceptable layers of incompetence.

"For survivors, this investigation is the first step towards justice, accountability, and healing. I promise you will be trusted, abusers will be held accountable, and we will change the culture of our organization to minimize harm. This is the moment when the process begins. For the thousands of residents and families who rely on the Chicago park area for high-quality programming every day, I work with the interim leadership team and board of directors every day to restore your interest in our world-class parks. System trust.

"For the employees of our park, you deserve to have leaders who work with you to protect our children from predators and believe in the values ​​of survivors of sexual abuse. Finally, I want to thank interim CEO and Chief Superintendent Rosa Escareño and the Park District Commission saw the conclusions of these investigations, published reports to maintain transparency, and took prompt and deliberate action based on their findings.

"As long as I am the mayor, I am committed to ensuring that leaders at all levels of the city government take allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power seriously and do everything I can to protect employees, residents and customers."

On Wednesday, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office stated: “CCSAO continues to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and public corruption. CCSAO has opened a dedicated line in the Chicago Park District (312) 603-1944 for those who know about sexual abuse.”