Lightfoot says Park District Supt. Kelly should be fired for causeMatthew Hendricksonon October 9, 2021 at 10:25 pm

Michael Kelly, superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Parks District, speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the bridge replacement project at Irving Park Road in the North Center neighborhood on Sept. 10. | Mark Capapas/Sun-Times file

The mayor said she called for Michael Kelly’s firing at an emergency Chicago Park District Board meeting Friday, but the board took no action against the park district’s superintendent and CEO.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday called for Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly to be fired a day after the district’s board of commissioners took no action following an emergency meeting to discuss his handling of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse involving park district lifeguards.

Lightfoot said in a statement that she urged the board on Friday to remove Kelly from his position as head of the park district for cause.

“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, Lightfoot said in a statement issued Saturday evening.

“I look forward to the board’s swift and decisive action regarding this matter in order to ensure that the Chicago Park District remains a world-class parks system of which every Chicagoan can be proud.”

The emergency session was held so commissioners could hear evidence gathered by an outside law firm looking into the scandal and questions raised about Kelly’s potential role in covering it up, the Sun-Times reported.

When the board reconvened, it took no action and adjourned without further comment.

Lightfoot previously said she would wait for the outcome of the investigation before deciding Kelly’s fate, even after a growing number of City Council members called for him to removed.

Kelly, 50, has led the park district for a decade and has a contract through Dec. 31, 2022, at an annual salary of $230,000.

The Sun-Times reported Friday that Kelly’s golden parachute contract could make it more difficult to fire him.

“We objected to the contract being characterized as a ‘golden parachute’ because it would fairly compensate Mike Kelly if he were terminated for political expediency but does not compensate him if he is fired for cause,” the board’s president told the Sun-Times.

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