City employees describe culture of sexual misconduct on Evanston beaches


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Evanston beachgoers. On Friday, WBEZ published an investigation into an alleged culture of sexual misconduct impacting employees of Evanston beaches.

Jacob Fulton, Summer Editor

Dozens of women who have served as lifeguards and other beach employees in Evanston alleged that sexual misconduct has run rampant among employees, often involving underage girls, WBEZ reported Friday.

The allegations come from a petition WBEZ obtained, which was authored by four women and brought to the city last summer. Included in the claims was an allegation that a lifeguard, who was 18 at the time, was raped by an older employee who served as a manager.

According to WBEZ, the women called on the city to address the existing culture of sexual harassment, including through a public apology and the firing of two male employees. One of the men did not return for the 2021 season, and the other resigned soon after the publication of the story on Friday, WBEZ reported.

After the story’s publication, City Council called an emergency meeting on Saturday to address the city’s response. Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) told Evanston RoundTable she and other elected officials were not informed of the allegations at the time, and as a result, were not involved with city actions.

The city released a statement on Friday in response to the story, recounting the steps it took in the wake of the events — which included immediate sexual harassment training and the appointment of a city employee to serve as a liaison for complaints.

However, the Community Alliance for Better Government, a local watchdog organization focused on government accountability, released a statement Saturday claiming the city didn’t do enough for its employees.

The lack of communication around the issue and limited response to employee concerns should warrant an independent investigation into both the Parks and Recreation Department and the City Manager’s office, the group said. The statement said city employees who committed the acts of sexual harassment and those who hid the events from the public should be removed from their positions.

“The Mayor and City Council must address the toxic culture, with an admixture of racism, sexism, and favoritism, that has flourished without meaningful challenge at 2100 Ridge for years,” the group wrote in the statement.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton