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Lori Lightfoot asks Chicago Park District to fire Mike Kelly – Crain’s Chicago Business

7:30 P.M. UPDATE:

Mike Kelly has submitted his resignation to Park District Board President Avis Lavelle, effective immediately.

“It has been an honor to steward this extraordinary organization for the past ten years,” Kelly’s brief resignation reads. “It has also been an honor to serve Chicagoans as a public servant for the past 27 years. I have always had the best interests of our patrons and our employees at heart.”


Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced today she asked the Chicago Park District to remove Superintendent Mike Kelly as CEO “immediately” over his handling of the sexual abuse scandal within the district’s lifeguard program. 

The Park District held an emergency meeting behind closed doors on Friday. At that meeting, Lightfoot said she “urged” the Park District’s board to remove Kelly “for cause,” according to a statement from her office. 

“The culture of sexual abuse, harassment, and coercion that has become pervasive within the District’s Aquatics Department lifeguard program under his leadership, combined with the superintendent’s lack of urgency or accountability as new facts have come to light, is unacceptable,” she said in a statement today. “Despite prior claims of new training, new procedures, and new personnel, the failings of the current Park District administration’s response to new allegations of harm to a child persists and simply cannot be tolerated one day longer. Therefore, in my estimation, it is time for new leadership immediately.”

Kelly has led the Park District since 2011, but has worked there since 2003, serving as Chief Operating Officer, First Deputy General Counsel and Director of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs.

Lightfoot has defended Kelly since WBEZ first reported this spring that complaints of “sexual harassment, abuse, assault and other misconduct against dozens of employees” were under investigation by the district’s inspector general. Kelly and park officials have also defended their own handling of the investigation of the reported incidents, which date back to the 1970s. 

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Lightfoot’s change in position — which came after a the resignation of a Humboldt Park supervisor accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl — was first reported by WBEZ, which noted Kelly is currently serving under a contract that expires in 2022, and the cost to sever it would total more than $150,000.  

The mayor’s statement follows one from the City Council’s 18 member Progressive Caucus on Friday that called for Kelly’s immediate resignation in light of the misconduct allegations, “the pattern of abuse within the district and failure of leadership in addressing the allegations.” 


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