Whistleblower suspended 18 days
CITY | Plumbing inspector punished after reporting on violations at school
February 19, 2008
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
An $85,068-a-year Chicago plumbing inspector who uncovered two pages of building-code violations that left 1,100 children at Jose de Diego Community Academy without water for weeks has been hit with back-to-back suspensions of three and 15 days.
Michael McGann said Monday the actions are in retaliation for his faxing a copy of his inspection report to the school's principal, talking with a Chicago Sun-Times reporter about the threat of disciplinary action and cooperating with an inspector general's investigation into what McGann calls "a rash of" substandard cast-iron pipe being used on city jobs.
The Sun-Times reported in late November that McGann faced disciplinary action for violating internal rules that prohibit preliminary inspection reports from being shared with outsiders until they're officially approved.
McGann said he gave the Oct. 24 report to de Diego principal Alice Vera so she could use the information to expedite repairs that had languished for weeks at the 116-year-old school at 1313 N. Claremont.
On Jan. 18, McGann was told he was being suspended for three days. McGann said he pulled out a tape recorder because, "I wanted a record of the event -- who was saying what, who was issuing what."
The inspector said he served his suspension even as he filed an appeal with the same officials who suspended him.
Then, on Friday, he was hit with another suspension, this time for 15 days. Among other things, he was accused of "borderline insubordination" for taping the earlier meeting.
Found E. coli
"They're trying to get rid of me because I'm honest, and I'm exposing corruption," McGann said. "They were totally disregarding the health and safety of students in that school, using plumbing contractors they want to put Band-Aids on it. Eighty days after the water main broke, I showed up and found E. coli bacteria in three different locations. There was still contaminated drinking water in that school. They had a full kitchen and swimming pool they couldn't use."
Building Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said McGann "is not being punished for sending that report out," nor is he being targeted for blowing the whistle on alleged wrongdoing.