CHICAGO (AP) — Documents show the man overseeing Chicago's investigation into the dragging of a passenger from a United Airlines plane was hired despite his termination from the Illinois Tollway amid sexual harassment allegations.
Deputy Aviation Commissioner of Security Jeff Redding told the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2plwOsx ) he had a consensual relationship with a toll collector but that wasn't the reason why he thought he was fired. However, the Tribune obtained a Tollway memo in which an assistant Illinois attorney general wrote that Redding's behavior "raised serious sexual harassment issues" and "warranted immediate termination."
The memo is based on an interview with the unidentified toll collector who describes instances when she felt compelled to have sexual relations with Redding.
According to the memo, the employee said Redding "expected sexual favors or money in exchange for work-related advancements or favors, and that threats were made by Mr. Redding indicating her job could be in jeopardy."
Redding, who was hired under a Democratic administration, said he believes he was terminated during the first year of Gov. Bruce Rauner's term so the Republican could hire his own workers. Redding strongly denied the female employee's allegations of coercion.
"That's not true, that's not true, that's not true. That's absolutely not true," the 54-year-old Redding, who is a former Chicago police officer, told the newspaper. He said if he made a mistake it was having a relationship with a subordinate. He called encounters outlined in the Tollway memo "fictional" and said the first time he heard about the allegations was when the Tribune told him about them.
Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said she didn't know about the Tollway memo when she interviewed Redding for the job. She recalled his explanation for leaving the Tollway was that he was swept out by an incoming administration.
"When you meet with him or speak with him, he's a very together guy," Evans told the Tribune.
She said Redding "continues to be very committed" and is "very effective on the job."
Evans said she has read the Tollway memo since learning about it and discussed it with Redding. She said it would be a "very serious matter" if her department confirms Redding "did not give us complete information or did not give us correct information" about the memo during his job interview or the recent discussion about it.
Redding testified before the Chicago City Council last week in a hearing about the United passenger being dragged off the plane at O'Hare International Airport. He discussed the role his security force plays at city airports. Three aviation officers are on paid leave pending an investigation into the April 9 incident that left Dr. David Dao of Kentucky injured.
It's not clear if the allegations against Redding in his previous job have any bearing on the United Airlines investigation.