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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.

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.
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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