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City officials describe the culture of sexual misconduct on the beaches of Evanston City officials describe the culture of sexual misconduct on the beaches of Evanston

Dozens of women who have served as lifeguards and other beach workers in Evanston claimed that sexual misconduct was widespread among staff, often involving underage girls, WBEZ reported Friday.

The allegations stem from a petition WBEZ received, written by four women and brought into town last summer. The claims also included the allegation that an then 18-year-old lifeguard had been raped by an older employee who worked as a manager.

According to the WBEZ, the women called on the city to crack down on the existing culture of sexual harassment, including through a public apology and the dismissal of two male employees. One of the men didn’t return for the 2021 season, the other resigned shortly after the story was released on Friday, WBEZ reported.

After the story was published, the city council convened an emergency meeting on Saturday to consider the city’s response. Ald. Cicely Fleming, 9th, told the Evanston RoundTable that she and other elected officials were not informed of the allegations at the time and were therefore not involved in any actions by the city.

The city released a statement on Friday in response to the story detailing the steps it had taken in the aftermath of the events – including immediate sexual harassment training and the appointment of a city employee to act as a complaint liaison officer.

However, the Community Alliance for Better Government, a local monitoring organization focused on government accountability, released a statement Saturday claiming the city had not done enough for its employees.

The lack of communication on the matter and limited response to staff concerns should warrant an independent investigation by both the parks and recreation department and the city manager’s office, the group said. The statement said that city officials who committed the acts of sexual harassment and those who hid the events from the public should be removed from office.

“The mayor and city council must grapple with the toxic culture of a mix of racism, sexism and favoritism that has thrived at 2100 Ridge for years without any significant challenge,” the group wrote in the statement.

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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