Daley sued over suspension of top ethics aide

February 18, 2010 4:31:48 PM PST
Mayor Richard M. Daley is being sued by Anthony Boswell, his top ethics officer.Boswell was suspended for allegedly mishandling a sexual harassment claim. But Boswell's attorney calls the suspension political retaliation.

It is a City Hall mess involving the mayor's office and at least four different departments and agencies. The suspended compliance director, recruited by the city to police the hiring of public employees, says he has been defamed by Richard M. Daley and Chicago's inspector general. And he's suing both to recover his good name.

"This action has damaged my reputation which I have spent 18 years building at various corporations around the world," said Boswell.

Boswell says he would rather have been at work making sure the city hired only the most qualified job applicants. But he was in his lawyer's office today because Mayor Daley suspended the $162,000 a year department head for 30 days without pay. The suspension was ordered after the city's inspector general, Joe Ferguson, determined that Boswell's office had mishandled a sexual harassment complaint filed by an intern at Chicago's 911 center.

"Mr. Daley relied upon information from Mr. Ferguson where Mr. Ferguson acted outside the scope of his authority," said Boswell.

In his lawsuit, Boswell alleges he was suspended not because of the 911 center case but because in 2008, he stopped the city's corporation counsel, Mara Georges, from hiring her predecessor Brian Crowe's unqualified daughter for an elevated position in the city's law department.

"She tried to take an under-qualified employee who is related to her predecessor and move her up the stage," said Jamie Wareham, attorney.

"We identified the problem and we were able to stop the hire from going forward," said Boswell.

Last week, the Daley administration shifted responsibility for hiring oversight away from Boswell and to the inspector general's office. A statement released by Raymond Orozco, the mayor's chief of staff, defended Daley's suspension of Boswell. Orozco wrote, "we have an obligation to look into employee complaints regarding conduct in the workplace and ensure that their claims of issues like sexual harassment are not ignored."

The mayor's office did not respond to the retaliation charge and the allegation that the law department tried to bend the rules to hire a political friend.

"I think there are certain departments in the city that feel they are above the processes that have been established," said Boswell.

When asked if he knew of other attempts in city departments to circumvent hiring rules, Boswell told ABC7 "it's possible" without providing any details.

Boswell began his four-year term as compliance director in January of 2008. The ordinance that created the job says he cannot be fired for political reasons.