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."