City Hall veteran Rosa Escareno tapped as interim Chicago Park Distirct superintendentOctober 14, 2021
The board of the scandal-ridden Chicago Park Department has tapped a popular City Hall veteran to take the helm amid sexual misconduct investigations until a permanent replacement for ousted CEO Michael Kelly is named.
Rosa Escareno agreed to come out of her recent retirement as commissioner of the department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to oversee the parks department, still in the midst of an investigation into rampant sexual harassment and abuse against lifeguards at the city’s beaches and pools.
Kelly, 50, was forced out over the weekend for his role in mishandling that investigation, ending his decade-long career at the park district and becoming one of about 40 employees disciplined in the ongoing probe.
He had been told late Friday to resign from his $230,000-a-year position, board president Avis LaVelle said at the conclusion of Monday’s two-hour closed door meeting of parks commissioners — or else be fired for cause.
LaValle said she suspended Kelly Friday night, a fact she did not share following hours of meeting privately with other commissioners to hear a report by an outside attorney who took over the investigation after the inspector general had to resign when her past ethics problems came to light. That report has not been made public.
“Superintendent Kelly is not accused of sexual assault or harassment, but he is guilty of deceit and failing to take critical steps to promote the zero tolerance standards that must replace this frat boy culture that has been allowed to flourish here for too long,” said LaVelle, who has resisted calls from City Council members to step down. “As a board we thank Supt. Kelly for the work he did here … but he failed on one of the most fundamental tasks, which is protecting our employees and our patrons.”
“We the Chicago Park District board of commissioners remain committed to seeking the truth about the culture of tolerance that’s been allowed to flourish here and we will continue to do whatever it takes to root out and destroy that culture,” she said.
Escareno vowed to “support the ongoing progress and improvement of what needs to be done at the parks right now.
“There needs to be some serious conversations and serious review of existing processes to ensure that we continue to regain the trust of the people of Chicago, in that employees will look to the park district as a great place to work also feel that it’s a place that protects them and will look out for them,” she said.
A permanent inspector general also still must be named.