Chicago Parks District watchdog calls suspension a reprisal

CHICAGO (AP) — The deputy inspector general for the Chicago Park District said he believes his suspension amid an investigation into charges of sexual abuse by lifeguards is a reprisal for trying to expose attempts to cover up the misconduct.

Nathan Kipp said he was placed on indefinite emergency suspension last week in what he called an attempt to “whitewash” an investigation into rampant sexual assault, sexual harassment and physical abuse among the district’s lifeguards.

“I can’t think of any reason other than that I have been zealously pursuing this investigation,” Kipp said Thursday.

“This meritless action is a clear attempt by Park District officials to impede and obstruct a devastating investigation into widespread sexual assault, sexual harassment and physical abuse throughout the District’s Beaches & Pools Unit,” Kipp said in a statement.

Park District officials offered him no explanation for the suspension, Kipp said.

The Park District said in a statement it “operates independently of the Office of Inspector General and has absolutely no influence on policies and decisions made by the IG.”

The Park District on Monday announced the suspensions of two high-level managers amid disciplinary action against 42 employees, including nine cases stemming from an investigation into sexual misconduct and abuse.

The two managers — the assistant director of recreation and beaches and the pools manager — were placed on emergency suspension Aug. 13 while the district awaits the outcome of the investigation by the inspector general’s office, CEO Michael Kelly announced.

The inspector general’s investigation probe began in March 2020, when Kelly turned over a complaint he received from a former lifeguard, who described a toxic environment at one beach, accusing fellow lifeguards of subjecting her and others to sexual harassment and sexual and physical abuse. She also reported witnessing rampant drug and alcohol use by fellow lifeguards.

Chicago public radio station WBEZ first reported in April that the park district was investigating wide-ranging claims of sexual misconduct among pool and beach employees.