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

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...