INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
Grantees’ Investigative Reporting Spurs Reform in 2021
Accountability-focused investigative journalism shines a light on issues in need of public scrutiny. From the workings of city agencies to the use of our public tax dollars, reporting on these issues helps Chicagoans understand how local government and institutions are working—or not working—for the public good.
Driehaus Foundation grantees represent some of the best in local investigative reporting. Grantee organizations routinely uncover wrongdoing, expose corruption, and give the public the information needed to pursue reforms.
A trio of stories investigated by Driehaus Foundation grantees are among of the most consequential government accountability investigations this year. These investigations, some of which led to a series of follow-up stories and additional reporting by peer outlets, helped bring these issues to public attention and led to immediate corrective action.
BGA on a Sprawling Scandal at Loretto Hospital
When COVID-19 vaccines became available, the city chose Loretto Hospital, in the Austin neighborhood, to administer the first doses. But the hospital was soon in the news for all the wrong reasons. Vaccines intended for Black communities on the West Side were being administered at unauthorized events at Trump Tower. Millions of dollars of the cash-strapped nonprofit’s budget were routed to one executive’s friends. A state senator accepted campaign contributions from a Loretto contractor and Caribbean travel as part of her board duties. Meanwhile, patient complaints and assaults soared.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Jackson and the Better Government Association, in partnership with Block Club Chicago, reported throughout the year on Loretto's sprawling scandal.
In November, the FBI launched a probe into the hospital and associated organizations as part of an ongoing search for accountability in the crisis.
Read: Better Government Association "Cash-Strapped Loretto Hospital Paid Millions to Companies Formed by Ousted Executive's Pal" (April 28, 2021)
ProPublica on Conditions at an Immigrant Youth Facility
In November, ProPublica Midwest published an investigation into disturbing conditions at a Bronzeville-based child immigrant shelter that was housing more than 40 Afghan children and teens.
Traumatized youth there had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, discussed suicide, attempted to escape the shelter, threatened staff, and hurt themselves and others—and the center was ill-equipped to handle these challenges, the ProPublica investigation discovered.
Within days of the ProPublica report, Illinois senator Dick Durbin called for a federal investigation into conditions at the facility, and senator Tammy Duckworth asked the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement to help improve mental health services there. Heartland Alliance, the Chicago nonprofit running the facility along with three others, announced it was enlisting translators in the children’s languages of Pashto and Dari—a shortcoming that had exacerbated issues at the center.
Read: ProPublica "Dozens of Traumatized Afghan Kids Struggle Inside a Shelter That's Ill-Equipped to Care for Them" (October 28, 2021)
WBEZ on the Chicago Park District's Lifeguard Scandal
WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos broke a story of abuse allegations concerning Chicago Park District lifeguards and continued to pursue the story through more than two dozen follow-up pieces over the course of 2021 and early 2022. Mihalopoulos’s reporting described a decades-long record of sexual abuse of young lifeguards working at the city’s beaches and pools and the Park District’s failure to address the problem and protect its staff.
The fallout from the scandal reached to the top levels of the district: Chicago Park District CEO Mike Kelly and board president Avis LaVelle resigned last fall, and three other high-ranking officials were fired at the same time. An investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has led to criminal charges.
Read: WBEZ “Female Ex-Lifeguards Describe Decades of Sexual Abuse at Chicago’s Beaches and Pools” (June 17, 2021)