Wheaton Tries to Move On After Department Bullying Exposé

City officials are defending their handling of workplace harassment after a Chicago Tribune expose claimed that it was “tolerated and ignored for years.”

Wheaton Public Works. (Credit: Patch file photo.)
Wheaton Public Works. (Credit: Patch file photo.)

City of Wheaton officials on Monday publically addressed the allegations put forth in last week’s Chicago Tribune exposé of “a city department where workplace bullying… was tolerated and ignored for years,” the Daily Herald reports.

According to the paper, Mayor Michael Gresk and members of the City Council said that they had taken swift action when the allegations first came to their attention earlier this year, and that internal and police investigations had been immediately and properly conducted and punishments handed out. 

“This was a very sensitive, embarrassing and potentially illegal situation, and I'm truly sorry anyone had to endure any bullying of any kind," the paper quoted Gresk saying. "But we've dealt with it, we're a better team for it and I'm confident it's no longer an issue in our city departments." 

The Tribune investigation focused on a city employee who claimed he was bullied, abused and harassed for years, including a potentially sexual assault with a glow stick, but was afraid to come forward for fear of “being labeled a snitch” or getting coworkers in trouble. 

“[Our] review of a 47-page investigative report raises questions about why such a hostile work environment was allowed to exist for so long and whether adequate safeguards have been put in place to prevent similar misconduct,” the Tribune wrote.

According to the Suburban Life, multiple employees in the Wheaton Public Works Department were suspended for a week in February without pay for participating in the harassment.

However, the paper said, City Manager Don Rose said that the City’s current policies against such behavior are adequate and clearly expressed, and there are no plans to change or update them. 

While most members of the Wheaton City Council expressed agreement with how the City handled the situation, the Herald said, Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti, expressed interest in further investigation. 

"I'm collecting information so I can evaluate all of the documents and see the time frame in which this was conducted," the paper quoted her saying. "Having come back from vacation yesterday, I want to be able to collect everything to make sure that no one dropped the ball here. I'm not ready to say either way." 

Read more at the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Suburban Life websites.

Larry August 21, 2013 at 10:56 PM
When this story first broke I was of the opinion that those involved above the perpetrators where prime examples of the Peter Principle, ie. they had been promoted to the highest level of their incompetence. Now that the Mayor and the rest of the city council, save Councilwoman Sanquinetti, have gone along with the cover up I am starting to wonder how incompetent this city government is. If they are this willing to cover up something as disgusting as this behavior, what else is being swept under the rug? Government ought to be setting the example for the citizens but apparently if a child is being bullied then we can make all kind of noise about how bad it is, but if it's someone worried about keeping a job it's OK to sweep it under the rug. According to the Tribune article the younger of the two morons said " I'm kinda glad this happened; it's gone on so long" sounds to me like he's just sorry he got caught. Sorry Mayor Gresk, but you haven't dealt with this. You people have succeed in doing is a) making me ashamed to admit that I live in Wheaton, and b) that I was dumb enough to vote for you the last time around, a mistake that I will not repeat.
John Blanchard August 22, 2013 at 07:27 AM
No one fired???
BIll I August 22, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Has anyone taken the time to research what the taxpayers pay these folks in charge? How do those involved get to keep their jobs? Thats a question I'd like the council to answer.
JanS August 22, 2013 at 01:05 PM
You can find your reps contact info on http://www.wheaton.il.us/government/citycouncil.aspx?id=328 Please let them know how you feel.
JanS August 22, 2013 at 01:06 PM
I just sent this ---- I am sending this to my city council rep and the two at-large reps. I came across several articles about "Bullying" in the city of Wheaton Public Works department. Apparently it went on for years. The public is just now becoming aware of it, and we are expected to simply accept, trust and move on - no questions asked. Really? Happened for years back in February, one of the "primary tormentors" was suspended without pay -- or was it -- multiple employees in the Wheaton Public Works Department were suspended for a week in February without pay ? (that is one-week of unpaid vacation) The council was made aware of the situation in April The first article is dated August 20, 2013 From the suburbanLife: An official police investigation earlier this year determined that there was some degree of bullying, but no charges were pressed due to the unwillingness of the victim to do so and because the stories told by those involved were conflicted. This incident was clearly against the code of conduct. If the statements that were added in comments on the Wheaton Patch are true, it is criminal sexual assault. How could the city council or Don Rose expect everyone to simply move on? Thank you, Evelyn, for not being satisfied. As for the rest of the city council, mayor and Public Works management, Shame on you.
Mom From Illinois August 22, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Wheaton City Officials - specifically Don Rose, Mayor Gresk, and city attorney Knippen - have once again shown their ego in thinking that they have used their best judgment in a handling a potentially, down the line law suit against the city. They should've consulted with appropriate professionals who handle work place bullying instead of giving the perpetrators a slap on the wrist and sweeping the scandal under the rug. A student in District 200 would've received a more harsh punishment that those professional adults did. Kudos to Council Rep Evelyn Sanguinetti who is the only person to actually stand up and question how the city handled this situation.
JanS August 22, 2013 at 04:43 PM
According yo openthebooks,com Don Rose earned $231,593.07 in 2012.
Wheaton Watcher August 22, 2013 at 07:38 PM
The whole HR function in the City of Wheaton is screwed up, and has been for years. Some of the very large departments haven't given their staff evaluations in years. The citizen oversight boards do poor jobs, and in some cases indulge in (bullying) it themselves.
Wrinks August 23, 2013 at 10:04 AM
When my scout group asked Don Rose about the powers of the mayor, I noticed a snear on his face, then he actually laughed a little, and said it was a job with no power or desicion making abilities. Arrogant. If only those of us who read this stuff could garner attention from the remaining 60,000 residents and get an overhaul of the city government.
unheard August 23, 2013 at 09:16 PM
I am wondering if I am reading this correctly. A potential sexual assault with a glow stick? The best they can do now is basically say everything is just fine?! I can only hope that you, Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti will indeed investigate further. We will stand behind you and thanks!!
Charles O'Malley August 23, 2013 at 11:45 PM
This is so disgusting. And how much will this cost Wheaton taxpayers when this poor person sues for harassment? As well he should, after being victimized in this way. Just another example of the good ol' boys network. Don Rose needs to resign.
Charles O'Malley August 23, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Mayor Gresk remarks "Potentially illegal"? I think ASSAULT with a glow stick in any way is ILLEGAL. Come on boys, step up to the plate. Man up and say this is NOT ACCEPTABLE and will not be tolerated. In any way shape or form, bullying is wrong. Those supervisors need to be ousted and Mr. Rose needs to step down. Obviously, 30 years is enough. Time for some new, ethical blood. Why isn't the Wheaton City Council stepping up to show some leadership?
Charles O'Malley August 24, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Wheaton Watcher August 24, 2013 at 09:00 AM
Mr. O'Malley: based upon you "all ways illegal" comment - I take it you have complete, full, and beyond controversy information concerning the "glow stick" attach? Based upon the tenor of your posting, it sounds like you have full data, fully accepted in a court of law, and, everyone will accept it as the full, irrefutable truth? The way your relate this, it sounds as though you have full information on this...the inside story..
Wheaton Truth August 24, 2013 at 02:27 PM
These incidents at Wheaton Public Works are ethically, morally, and legally wrong. You would think that the City of Wheaton officials would at least have been smart enough to learn from the Penn State/Sandusky case and do the right thing. What else is going on at City Hall? The truth will win.
Vincent August 24, 2013 at 05:02 PM
It's understandable how all this happened: at the time all this was unfolding, Wheaton authorities were completely consumed with that horrible coyote epidemic. What's a little sexual assault with a glow-stick when you have packs of wild coyotes marauding around the streets of Wheaton? For all the hysteria about coyotes, you'd have thought we were in 18th century Gevaudan, France. This town has serious issues with prioritizing, and this is the epitome of what happens when one focuses on nonsense instead of taking care of legitimate business.
unheard August 24, 2013 at 08:13 PM
What memories Vincent, that was pitiful!! Since they can't handle a sexual assault issue, I am thinking they MIGHT be capable of something else, namely a light on East Loop. Maybe at AMLI apartments or Jahns (by the school bus stop.) heck, anywhere would be nice. Left turns are close to impossible and rarely safe. With the large apartment complex, the college, the neighborhood, newish movie theater and the mall so one would think this might be prudent. (A short light would allow "turn time" yet not interfere with traffic from Butterfield Rd. or Naper. Blvd.) Let's keep our fingers crossed since they MIGHT consider, reconsider and even implement this idea, most likely around 2020
Charles O'Malley August 24, 2013 at 09:14 PM
I'm just going on what the newspapers say. I think assault is always considered illegal.
Wheaton Truth August 24, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Thank you, unheard, for lightening things up. Vincent's comment is worth reading a few times. That horrible coyote epidemic! A few Wheaton coyotes grabbed a few high tax $ citizens little dogs. I do feel for this, but I know in my heart that most Wheaton residents with small dogs don't let them travel too far from the abode without a leash. The great coyote scare of '06 that our city father's saved us from, reminds me of another recent attack on Wheaton's wildlife. Beavers were crushed in large conibear steel traps in Wheaton. I can only imagine the idiot who sold the Mayor and the council on this one. I don't want to be mean, but ignorant, out of touch, and sell-out come to mind.
billy August 25, 2013 at 10:18 AM
As I reflect, person(s) messing with others have too much time on their hands or too little workload. Perhaps a firing or two might cure more than this incident and set the stage for Public Works future. Realize Public Works is a large and diverse workforce BUT many other have huge workforces as well as Courts Martial enforcements.
PD August 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM
The actions the leaders of Wheaton's city government took for this incident are egregious and immoral. Anyone reading this, who works for a public company, signs an agreement about workplace behavior, and the rules to which we have to comply. If anyone of us did to this man what his Wheaton coworkers did to him, we would have been fired immediately without question, or hesitation. It is apparent the victim is still intimidated by the people who mentally and physically tortured him for YEARS, because he still wants to protect them. He is obviously afraid of his abusers. Can you image working in an environment like this victim did? Going to work every day fearing your co-workers bullying. Having co-workers making fun of how you were sexually assaulted to your face and you not being able to go to your leader because you know they allow it to happen and there is nothing...nothing that will be done. The leaders of this community should stand up for the victim, not the perpetrators of these vile acts. I know if this would have happened in the high schools our Principals would have protected the victim, because we as parents have to sign agreements that our children will not bully other children. Why do we sign these agreements? Because it is our moral responsibility to do the right thing. And where is the legal establishment? Why haven't these abusers been arrested and charged with rape? If the statutes of limitations have expired, even more reason to fire them because they surely would have been charged with rape. But, our city leaders did not fire them. If these leaders say what they did out loud, "we suspended, without pay, for 1 week, the people who mentally and sexually assaulted an individual for YEARS." and can still justify their actions, there is only one action we as the people should take. We pay their salaries...and we as the bosses of this community, need to fire those leaders who do not have the same moral or ethical standards that we have for ourselves. The next election has to be a resounding message. WE WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO RUIN OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT WITH YOUR IMMORAL LEADERSHIP. And if in the near future, these employees are eventually fired, we still have to hold the leaders accountable because they did not have the moral or christian integrity to do the right thing when it should have been done.
Poly August 25, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Jan S. wrote: According yo openthebooks,com Don Rose earned $231,593.07 in 2012. Wow, that is a tremendous amount of money. How much does the governor make? How can this salary be justifiable? How much does the CUSD 200 superintendent earn? Much less I imagine.
Wheaton Truth August 25, 2013 at 06:33 PM
The City of Wheaton Public Works abuse scandal painfully points out the reality that Wheaton is being governed by bloated and out of touch officials. The members of the city council, other than one brave and intelligent free thinking soul, seem to be mindless followers of whatever the powers that be dictate. How do you sleep at night?
billy August 25, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Poly, Openthebooks (http://forthegoodofillinois.org/tag/open-the-books/) allows checking all those salaries and benefits. You hit on a sore point with CUSD200 Superintendent - similar to Don Rose BUT the retired/past Superintendent still earns that same plus another similar benefits from his new job ! Watch your backside/tax bill when CUSD200 wants $20,000,000 again to outfit Jefferson to be as modern outfitted as a new 2014 school. You may remember that was how Huble started as upgrade and after all cost nearer to $100,000,000 by the time the levy gets paid off. JanS is just keeping levy/novel writers honest.
billy August 27, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Sequester means less pay for less work for federal employees to save money. Business owner that needed electrical inspection on a monday to continue major construction project recently - found 'we don't do electrical inspections on mondays.' Is this another example of 4 day weeks with 4 days pay ? Or can this be an example of lax management in City of Wheaton?
Debra Costas August 27, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Having worked in the Wheaton Library for over 20 years I can attest to the validity of the harassment of employees. The city definitely has a "denial" mentality. It's a very "political" government group who turns a "blind eye" to this problem and frequently treats their workers/employees with a very bad attitude in this area.
billy August 27, 2013 at 01:26 PM
In searching about harassment the result is alarming, [PDF] Illinois Supreme Court Expands Employer Liability for Sexual ... www.srzlaw.com/pdf/SRC_Newsletter_Fall09.pdf‎ This interpretation was consistent with federal sexual harassment law. In Sangamon County. Sheriff's Department, however, the Illinois. Supreme Court rejected … DuPage County IL Official Website - States Attorney News www.dupageco.org › Elected Officials › State's Attorney‎ Man Sentenced to Maximum in 1996 Sexual Assault ... to 60 years in the IllinoisDepartment of Corrections for the 1996 sexual assault of a Bensenville woman. Milton Township board censures assessor - Chicago Tribune articles.chicagotribune.com › Featured Articles › Sexual Harassment‎ Dec 13, 2001 - The Milton Township trustees formally censured Township Assessor James Gumm Tuesday for alleged sexual harassment of six female workers. ... township boards with no managerial controls over assessors' offices but … Sex Offender Information - City of Wheaton www.wheaton.il.us › Departments › Police‎ The Wheaton Police Department has not considered or assessed the specific ...Information compiled on this Registry may not be used to harass or threaten sex ...
Al Rivers August 28, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Wheaton DOES have an HR Manager - well paid also. Obviously he has not a clue of the organizational, compliance, and ethical responsibilities of an HR department in the workplace. After spending my entire career in management and working with these types of issues, I find the actions of the Wheaton city managers involved in this cruel and sickening debacle to be pathetic in every way.
Harold Sullivan February 02, 2014 at 12:30 AM
Clearly a special prosecutor needs to be appointed to fully investigate the ethical abuses of power within the department. This seems very reminiscent of when Chief Fields of the Wheaton PD, claimed that a police officer crashed into a mailbox and front door of a house while on patrol was due because she was tired and fell asleep at the wheel. I recall reading about it on https://wheatonilpolicecorruption.wordpress.com , the female police officer had been reinstated to the traffic division and allegedly writing DUI tickets against drivers with a .04-.06 alcohol concentration.
Vincent February 02, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Harold, yes, there clearly are some problems in Wheaton! Somewhere along the way there was also the incident where Mayor Gresk chose to park in a handicap parking space, saying that he hadn't noticed that it was such. And there is the ongoing supposed coyote issue, where folks think that killing coyotes is the answer to everything, which is one of my specialties. Guess we need to get our thinking caps on to figure out what to do about these odd goings-on!


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