Chicago official joked about ‘safari’ tours in high-crime neighborhoods

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A former supervisory city official in Chicago used a municipal email account to send and receive racist emails — including one that offered “safari tickets” to see life-threatening violence committed by “animals” in crime-riddled neighborhoods, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The report by Chicago’s Inspector General found that one employee from the city’s Department of Water Management sent other high-ranking staffers an email with the subject line “Chicago Safari Tickets,” a fake travel package to see some parts of the city live and up close.

“If you didn’t book a Chicago Safari adventure with us this 4th of July weekend, this is what you missed,” according to the email, which included the number of recent gunshot victims in neighborhoods like Englewood, Garfield Park and Woodlawn. “Remember all Chicago Safari packages include 3 Deluxe ‘Harold’s Chicken’ meals a day … We guarantee that you will see at least one kill and five crime scenes per three day tour. You’ll also see lots and lots of animals in their natural habitat.”

The employee was not named in the 35-page report, but the Chicago Tribune identified the former employee as Paul Hansen, a district superintendent who resigned in May after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson launched an investigation into racist and sexist emails allegedly distributed throughout the agency. The department’s commissioner, Barrett Murphy, and his top deputy, William Bresnahan, also stepped down after Mayor Rahm Emanuel learned of the ongoing probe.

Hansen is also accused of sending emails to other department employees with subject lines like “Watermelon Protection,” a message that contained an image of a Ku Klux Klan robe on a stick in the middle of a field of watermelons. In other emails, Hansen allegedly communicated with a high-ranking official using “purported Ebonics,” sent sexually explicit photos and videos and used his city email account to negotiate purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars with private individuals.

“OIG does not purport to have identified all improper emails sent and received by the employee,” according to the report, which noted that the employee in question subsequently resigned and has been placed on a do-not-rehire list.

A second employee from the troubled department also sent and received racist messages concerning Muslims and blacks, referring to them as “rag head c— suckers” and “wild animals,” respectively, according to the report. Another message suggested that people should have tossed grenades at a black Italian politician instead of bananas, the inspector general report found.

The second, now-former employee was identified by the Chicago Tribune as Thomas Durkin, general foreman of plumbers who resigned after being placed on administrative leave in June as an investigation unfolded.

Both Hansen and Durkin could not be reached for comment, the newspaper reports.

In a statement issued in response to the report, Emanuel said the conduct found by the inspector general “does not reflect” the city’s values.

“Mayor Emanuel has been clear that the conduct uncovered by the OIG’s investigation does not reflect Chicago’s values and will not be tolerated, which is why he acted swiftly to address the issue and bring in new leadership at the Department of Water Management,” spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier told the Chicago Tribune.


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