Video: Chicago Park District Chairman of the Board resigns under fire. Our Spotlight Politics team on this and more. (Produced by Alex Silets)
The chairperson of the Chicago Park District Council of Commissioners resigned Wednesday amid criticism for her handling of complaints from girls and young women working on Chicago’s beaches and swimming pools that they had been abused, assaulted and harassed.
Avis LaVelle, who was a key aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, told reporters eight days ago that she would not resign and criticized Superintendent Mike Kelly for failing to investigate the allegations for almost six months.
LaVelle, who was appointed to the board of directors in 2011 by former mayor Rahm Emanuel chosen by him to serve as president in 2019, said in a statement that she “was stepping down from that scene and moving on to the next one. high and with the knowledge that I have done my best to serve.
“Let me be clear. I am not being forced out. Mayor Lightfoot did not ask me to resign,” LaVelle said. “She was determined to support me both publicly and in private. For that I am deeply involved. grateful.
A spokesperson for the mayor declined to confirm LaVelle’s statements. Lightfoot kept laVelle as president of the parks council for more than two years.
“I thank Ms. LaVelle for her decades-long service to the city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Charter Schools, will serve as interim Chairman of the Park District Board of Directors while a search for LaVelle’s replacement is underway. Lightfoot said.
“I have full confidence in the ability of the Chicago Park District Board to move forward,” said Lightfoot.
While LaVelle said on Wednesday that she “acted with fairness, honesty and integrity” while a member of the Chicago Parks Board, she said on November 2 that she should not have trusted Kelly to handle matters. complaints and that “mistakes were made”.
The Park District watchdog reports to the chairman of the board, and LaVelle regretted not overseeing the investigation more closely.
“While the facts are not important to everyone, I am confident that the facts to date and those yet to be disclosed will show that I have acted honestly and responsibly here, as I have done everything. throughout my public career, ”LaVelle said Wednesday. “If you know me, then you know this is how I have lived my life in public and in private.”
Although LaVelle’s statement announcing her resignation used the word ‘integrity’ on four occasions, she did not mention the girls and young women who were abused, harassed and assaulted and were ignored when they filed complaints. .
“As I have said before, I am deeply sorry that the culture of abuse and harassment could have escalated in the Beaches & Pools division of the Chicago Park District,” said LaVelle, without specifying who was responsible for this. driving or for allowing it to continue unchecked.
Lightfoot said Friday that the Chicago Park District “brand” had been “hurt” by the scandal.
But the mayor did not call for LaVelle’s resignation, telling reporters she expected the heavy-hitting communications consultant to make an announcement “soon.” Lightfoot praised LaVelle for doing “a lot of service to this city over the decades” and said it had been “a very difficult time for [LaVelle] personally, professionally and very difficult for his family.
An investigation by the Acting Park District Inspector General found that at least four lifeguards abused, assaulted and harassed girls at Chicago pools and beaches between 2015 and 2020.
Under pressure from Lightfoot, Chicago Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly resigned on October 10 and was replaced on an interim basis by Rosa Escareño, who retired in July as commissioner of the Department of Commercial Affairs and Consumer Protection after 30 years with the city.
Chicago Park District management has failed to protect its employees, Escareño said, adding that she “was stunned and horrified” by the results of the investigations.
Eight Chicago city council members called for LaVelle’s resignation, saying she had not done enough to protect the girls and young women who worked for the Chicago Park District.
WBEZ was the first to report that the city had received dozens of complaints of sexual misconduct against rescuers – including girls – dating back decades.
The investigation is continuing, Chicago Park District officials said.
State Attorney Kim Foxx is investigating allegations of criminal sexual behavior.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]