The Chicago Water Department Emails Are Way Worse than We Thought

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Somebody needs to tell the remaining bigots in Chicago’s political machine that Old Mayor Daley died more than four decades ago.

The city’s ongoing scandal over racist, sexist, homophobic, and Islamophobic emails circulated for years by politically connected officials at the water department worsened on Friday after the Chicago Tribune obtained some 1,300 emails under the Illinois open records law. The content of several of those emails is appalling.

Until the emails came to public light following an inspector general’s inquiry and a story in the Tribune last June, these officials had behaved this way for a long, long time because, well, clout.


One of the biggest offenders was former district superintendent Paul Hansen, whose former alderman father was connected to the second Mayor Daley. Hansen resigned in May following the inspector general’s inquiry, along with former water Commissioner Barrett Murphy and former Managing Deputy Commissioner William Bresnahan, the newspaper reported.

According to the report:

One jarring example of a racist email was forwarded from Hansen to Murphy in July 2014. It was titled “Watermelon Protection” and included an image that depicted a scarecrow, dressed in a white KKK robe and pointed hood, amid a field of watermelons. “I don’t understand,” Hansen stated in his message to Murphy.

Another email from August 2015 “referred to the sex organs of white and black men, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, a Confederate flag, and Dorothy and the Tin Man.”

A 2013 homophobic email made a crass “joke” about Chicago’s beloved Gay Pride Parade. Another email attacked the black community, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community all in one “joke.”


And the list goes on, and on, and on.

As the newspaper notes, for years, Commissioner Murphy did nothing to stop this behavior. Murphy’s clout began under the Daley administration, but grew under current Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Murphy’s wife was a treasurer for one of Emanuel’s political funds, the Tribune notes, and the two couples are close friends.


The ties run deeper:

The mayor also has toiled to put an end to clout at City Hall. But the political connections of the supervisors involved in the email controversy hark back to the era when Donald Tomczak controlled the water department that became a focus of a 2006 federal corruption trial. Emanuel first ran for Congress during the Tomczak era, and political troops loyal to Tomczak helped the mayor win his first elected office. And Murphy, Hansen and other members of the group show up on a clout list presented at the federal corruption trial held 11 years ago.


While Emanuel put Murphy in the political office he held until being forced to resign over the emails, the mayor did name Randy Conner, an African American official, to take over the water department last May. Conner announced that department supervisors would undergo Equal Opportunity training on workplace discrimination.

And the mayor’s spokeswoman told the Tribune Emanuel had acted “quickly and decisively” to address the matter...after the officials finally got called out, that is.

Weekend Editor, Splinter

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