The charges of sexual harassment of lifeguards and other aquatics employees at the Chicago Park District, and signs of serious government mishandling of the matter, have unspooled like a slow-motion disaster.

In February 2020, Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly first received an emailed abuse complaint from a former employee. He promptly pressed reply, thanking the alleged victim for bringing the problem to light. He said he’d get right on it.

Kelly waited six weeks before referring the matter to the Park District’s inspector general. The referral came just two days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot forwarded a separate harassment complaint, made to the mayor’s office. Kelly’s timing was no coincidence.

The Park District inspector general at the time, Will Fletcher, began investigating. But resources were limited, and just two investigators took on the case. Even so, Deputy Inspector General Nathan Kipp made good progress. Too good, Kipp now says. He was suspended abruptly without pay or public explanation, Kipp alleges.

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Image used: “Northerly Island Press Conference” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by usacechicago. Image and caption have been modified from the original.

David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.