The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its fourth quarter report for 2021 to City Council. The report summarizes the Office’s activity from October 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021. This quarter’s report contains summaries of concluded investigations, inquiries, advisories, and other activities, including:
- An OIG investigation regarding the implosion of an industrial smokestack at the former Crawford Generating Power Plant which caused a particulate dust cloud to engulf and settle on a large area of Chicago’s Little Village community during the COVID-19 pandemic. OIG established that although there was no dedicated City procedure specific to an implosion of structural demolition leading up to the smokestack implosion, the Department of Buildings (DOB) failed to follow its own regulations for demolitions involving explosives, which directly and indirectly contributed to a breakdown of City regulatory oversight. OIG additionally established that a CDPH official was on notice and therefore knew or should have known that the redevelopment company’s demolition contractor had outlined manifestly inferior dust mitigation measures prior to the implosion that radically diverged from the plan of its contract predecessor. OIG recommended that DOB impose discipline against its two officials, commensurate with the gravity of their violations—which should factor the magnitude of the public health, welfare, and safety threat to community members—as well as their past work and disciplinary record, and any other relevant considerations. OIG recommended the same discipline for the CDPH official. In response, DOB asserted that the Department and the City acted quickly to enact numerous reforms to ensure that an incident like this would not happen again, and declined to issue discipline to its two officials. CDPH acknowledged that it is incumbent upon the City and its officials to identify and address the various system failures and gaps in the permitting process in connection with this implosion, noting that reforms have been implemented, and agreed that discipline was warranted and planned to issue a written reprimand to their official.
- An OIG investigation regarding the behavior and aid provided at the scene to a victim who died after suffering a gunshot wound at the hands of an unknown assailant. The investigation established that no CPD member documented the handcuffing of the victim; the then-sergeant present at the scene violated CPD policy by failing to ensure that the CPD member who placed the victim in handcuffs at some point prior to transport accompanied them in the ambulance to the hospital. The investigation also found that a CPD detective who conducted the investigation into the victim’s homicide was disrespectful to or mistreated a member of the victim’s family during a meeting. OIG recommended that CPD impose discipline commensurate with the gravity of the violations, past disciplinary record, and any other relevant considerations. In response, CPD stated that it did not agree that OIG proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the victim was, in fact, handcuffed prior to being transported to the hospital––and instead issued a reprimand to the then-sergeant. The CPD detective retired before the completion of OIG’s investigation, therefore OIG recommended that CPD issue a formal determination on the violations, place the report along with CPD’s response in their personnel file, and refer them for placement on the ineligible for rehire list maintained by the Department of Human Resources. CPD did not believe that the detective’s conduct rose to a level sufficient to refer them for placement on the ineligible for rehire list, but agreed to place OIG’s report and recommendations in the employee’s personnel file. Further, OIG recommended that CPD review its policy regarding the provision of first aid to injured persons to ensure that it complies with a recent change in state law, and also review its policy and training on the transportation of injured persons to hospitals by CPD members, as well as trainings and directives regarding communications, interactions with, and services to victims of violent crimes and their family members. CPD agreed to review its policies to ensure they comply with current state law and best practices.
- An OIG report regarding an investigation into the City’s handling of the aftermath of the CPD wrong raid on the home of Anjanette Young, which found that City government failed to appropriately respond to a victim of a wrong raid and failed to act with transparency in City operations.
- Three advisories published this quarter regarding:
- The May 2021 equipment failures at the Roseland Pumping Station (RPS), which caused pressure in the water main to drop, requiring the Department of Water Management (DWM) to issue a 24-hour water-boil order for much of the 19th Ward. A failure of the same type of equipment caused a second power outage at the facility which did not result in a boil order but exacerbated concerns about the facility. OIG concluded that at the root of the incidents was a DWM and City equipment failure inside the station––namely, a rented Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit installed in 2018 and a temporary replacement installed after the May 6th event. In response, DWM disagreed with OIG’s findings regarding the failure of the UPS in the May 2021 incidents.
- A pattern in which a disproportionate number of Chicago Fire Department (CFD) retirees reported their active member badges missing or stolen within three to six months of their retirement. OIG concluded that CFD members are either committing theft of City property (badges), filing false police reports to cover up the theft, or that CFD members may be misplacing their badges and not reporting them missing or stolen until it is time to return their badges at retirement.
- The practice of CPD members performing background checks on individuals signed up to speak at Chicago Police Board meetings, going back as far as 2006. OIG found that a Police Board employee would email the names of citizens who signed up to speak at Police Board meetings to a group of approximately 20 people in advance of every meeting. Following significant local media coverage in July 2019, CPD ceased the practice. OIG made multiple recommendations to CPD to ensure that that the use of its databases to perform background checks on members of the public who engage with the City’s public safety institutions will not reoccur in the future, including, but not limited to, incorporating permissible and impermissible uses of CPD databases and prohibitions on improper background checks into training academy and in-service curricula.
- Two audits regarding: The Chicago Fire Department’s Fire and Emergency Medical Response Times, which concluded that CFD has not implemented performance management strategies that would allow it to evaluate its response times in alignment with best practices (which OIG first recommended in 2013); as well as an Audit of City Council Committee Spending and Employee Administration, which found that some City Council committees have not maintained complete employee records in accord with the local records retention requirements, and that some committee personnel performed non-committee duties, notwithstanding requirements that governments spend funds only for their designated purposes.
- Two follow-ups regarding: the Chicago Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program, as well as the Chicago Police Department and Department of Family and Support Services’ Administration of the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center.
The full quarterly report can be found on OIG’s website: bit.ly/OIG2021Q4.