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County watchdog: Police sergeant violated sexual harassment policy, employee misused time off for Jamaican vacation
The report documents other allegations of misconduct, including a county worker who misused Family and Medical Leave Act time for a Jamaican getaway and an update on a previously reported parking ticket incident.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times
by Rachel Hinton

A sergeant in the Cook County Forest Preserve’s police department sexually harassed a subordinate officer with a “profane sexual comment, unwanted invitations, invasion of personal space” and other inappropriate behavior — but retired before he could face disciplinary action.

The county’s Office of the Independent Inspector General sustained the allegations against the sergeant and recommended that he be placed on the county’s do-not-hire list.

That incident is detailed in the latest quarterly report from the county’s watchdog. The report documents other allegations of misconduct, including a county worker who misused Family and Medical Leave Act time for a Jamaican getaway and an update on a previously reported parking ticket incident that cost the forest preserve chief of police his job.

The report does not name any of the individuals involved in the alleged misconduct.

In the sexual harassment case, an officer who reported to the sergeant came forward with the allegations. Before May 2018 there was nothing “unusual about their interactions,” according to the report, but then the sergeant began texting her on her personal cellphone outside of work hours, asking her to go out with him. The officer ignored the requests but one time, annoyed by the lack of response, the sergeant messaged her “WTF” after not receiving a response.

On another instance, the sergeant asked the officer to go out drinking with him. She declined, but he later asked if she could give him a ride home. The officer obliged, but when she asked the sergeant for his address the sergeant replied “that he did not want complainant to know where he lived because she would ‘want to come over and f**k.’”

In an interview with the inspector general’s office, the sergeant, who retired three weeks prior to being interviewed, acknowledged that “one bad thing happened between her and I,” in reference to that incident. He said his invitations were meant as group invites and “he never extended one-on-one invitations to her.” The two had gone out before in group settings, and he contacted the officer on her cell phone “as we were friends,” the sergeant told investigators.

The inspector general’s office said the evidence “supports a sustained finding that” the sergeant violated the Forest Preserves domestic/sexual violence and harassment policy.

“The Sergeant’s profane sexual comment, unwanted invitations, invasion of personal space, and comments on physical appearance all served to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace for complainant,” according to the report.

Because the sergeant is now retired, the office couldn’t recommend disciplinary action, but it did recommend he be placed on the county’s do-not-hire list.

A spokesman for the forest preserves said it took the recommendation.

“The Forest Preserves of Cook County has clear and stringent prohibitions against sexual harassment,” said spokesman Carl Vogel. “The Sergeant in question resigned from the Forest Preserves Police during the course of the investigation of his behavior. He was put on the Do Not Hire list immediately after his resignation.”

The inspector general’s report also detailed a Jamaican vacation for a married couple who work in the Recorder of Deeds Office. The husband misused Family and Medical Leave Act benefit time for the trip, according to the report. The wife didn’t cooperate with the investigation, and at one point said “she is a private person and does not feel that she has to share with anyone what she does during her time off work.”

When her husband was asked if he took the vacation while off on the medical leave time, he said “no.”

When investigators explained the allegations that he went on a trip to Jamaica with his wife in December 2018 while on FMLA, the employee denied it, saying “he could not go on a trip to Jamaica in December 2018 because there is not a medical facility there that provides the treatment he requires.”

After investigators told him that they’d obtained airline records with his flight information, the employee said he couldn’t “recall” going to Jamaica. Pressed further, he said “I was on the trip” and explained that he feels forced to use FMLA in this way because all of his benefit time has been exhausted. The inspector general recommended a 25-day suspension for the husband and a 15-day suspension for the wife.

In a roundup of previous investigations, the inspector general’s office wrapped up a summer parking incident that saw Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. try to help his friend get out of a parking ticket.

“The evidence outlined above demonstrates that the Commissioner was not engaged in a legitimate purpose of the Commissioner’s office,” according to the report. “Rather, the Commissioner was attempting to use the authority of the Commissioner’s office on behalf of a political associate who sought to avoid the consequences of his actions.”

The inspector general’s recommendations, which included reinstating the ticket, were adopted by the Forest Preserves District.

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