City employees made antisemitic statements, tore down a Black Lives Matter sign and chased down and threatened a Chicagoan who took a picture of a city garbage truck blocking a bicycle lane, according to a report released Friday by the city’s interim watchdog.
The cases were detailed in the first — and likely only — quarterly report issued by interim Inspector General William Marbeck. The Chicago City Council is set to confirm Deborah Witzburg’s appointment as inspector general April 27, more than six months after former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson left office.
A probe by the Office of the Inspector General found that a ward superintendent — hired by a member of the Chicago City Council to respond to residents’ complaints and oversee snow removal and trash removal in their wards — made antisemitic remarks on a voicemail they left for a resident.
In keeping with the rules governing the inspector general’s office, none of the employees implicated in the misconduct were identified.
After calling the resident — while on duty and from a city facility — the ward superintendent left a voicemail, but failed to disconnect and continued speaking, according to the report.
The ward superintendent’s anti-Semitic remark was captured on the resident’s voicemail, and the recording was provided to the inspector general, according to the report.
The ward superintendent acknowledged that he made the remark, and resigned from his job before city officials could act on the inspector general’s recommendation to fire them.
In July 2021, the inspector general recommended that members of the Chicago City Council no longer have the power to hire and fire ward superintendents, saying it violated a court decision prohibiting employees from being hired based on political considerations.
That recommendation brought a furious response from alderpeople, who said it would curtail their ability to ensure residents’ complaints get addressed, a key part of their jobs.
In a separate probe, the inspector general found a construction laborer for the Department of Water Management removed a Black Lives Matter sign from a resident’s yard and “threw it face down,” according to the probe.
The incident was captured on video, according to the report.
While the inspector general recommended that the laborer be fired, they were instead suspended for 29 days, according to the report.
Another employee of the Water Department was suspended for three days after a probe found they slapped a resident’s cellphone from their hands during an altercation. The employee, a plumber, was in the resident’s home to address a basement flood caused by a leak in a neighbor’s home.
In a separate probe, the inspector general found that an employee of the Department of Streets and Sanitation chased down a member of the public and threatened them after they took a picture of a city vehicle blocking a bicycle lane.
After the picture was taken, the garbage truck driver got out of the vehicle and confronted the person and called them “a little b----” and a “f------ pussy,” according to the probe.
As the person who took the picture walked away, the truck driver pursued them on to a side street and said “I’m going to follow you home” and “let’s see where you live,” according to the probe.
During the inspector general’s probe, the truck driver lied about the incident, according to the report.
While the inspector general recommended that the garbage truck driver be fired, they were instead suspended for 29 days, according to the report.
In another probe, the inspector general found that a truck driver for the Department of Transportation was responsible for creating a “road rage incident” while on duty and driving a city vehicle during an altercation with another driver.
During that incident, the truck driver “verbally abused the minor passenger of that vehicle, made physical contact with that vehicle, used profanities during the altercation and gestured rudely with their middle finger,” according to the probe.
While the inspector general recommended that the truck driver be fired, they were instead suspended for five days, according to the report.
In a separate probe, an employee of the Office of Public Safety Administration was terminated after they shoplifted makeup and other products from a Walgreens store while on duty and sought preferential treatment from the officers who responded to the incident, according to the probe.
The employee also threatened and harassed the staff of the Walgreens where they were arrested, according to the probe.
“Specifically, both on the day of the incident and the following day, while on duty, the employee called the store at least 15 times, pretending to be an attorney, threatening the staff with litigation, and subjecting them to profanity and other harassing statements that caused Walgreens staff to fear for their safety,” according to the report.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]