A former Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority president's past has followed him to Chicago.
James Hartung, who was dismissed from the port authority in 2008 for an "inappropriate relationship with a vendor," was fired from his post as dean of career programs at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago on Thursday for failing to disclose the circumstances of his departure from the port authority on his job application.
"City Colleges asks all applicants to state the reason for leaving their prior employers, to which Mr. Hartung listed 'retired.' We now know that was not the case," City Colleges of Chicago said in a statement issued Thursday. "Had Mr. Hartung been candid and forthcoming about the true circumstances under which he had left the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, he would not have been hired by City Colleges."
In an email interview, Mr. Hartung responded that his statement that he had retired from the port authority "was, in fact, true."
"Unfortunately . . . there are powers that won't allow the page to be turned nor allow the luxury of a new beginning," he wrote. "Hatred, with some, runs so deep so as to defy reason or logic. Remember, 'people are better than the worst thing they've ever done.' "
Mr. Hartung assumed the Olive-Harvey dean's post this year, according to Laurent Pernot, a spokesman for Chicago City Colleges. His appointment was a part of the College to Careers program, an initiative announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December that aims to provide practical job training in transportation and health care for Chicago's public college students.
Mr. Pernot and other college officials declined to elaborate on Mr. Hartung's termination or what type of background check was done during his hiring.
The news release, however, noted that "a review of the City Colleges hiring procedures is under way to ensure more comprehensive vetting process moving forward."
It remains unclear how and when City College officials became aware of the circumstances of Mr. Hartung's departure from the port authority, though a Chicago-based business blogger wrote of his 2008 dismissal on Thursday morning, posting information from and links to Blade articles from that time.
Mr. Hartung had been the port authority's president for 14 years before his August 1, 2008, dismissal. His termination, after a unanimous vote by port authority board members, was prompted by Mr. Hartung's relationship with Kathy Teigland, a West Toledo lobbyist working on behalf of the port authority.
Hundreds of emails exchanged between Mr. Hartung and Ms. Teigland, released in 2008 in compliance with state public records laws, revealed the two had a long-standing personal relationship, and Ms. Teigland had asked Mr. Hartung for a pay increase.
Mr. Hartung subsequently sued the port authority because his termination was "with cause," a specification that served to deny him severance and other benefits otherwise provided for in his employment contract. The agency and Mr. Hartung later settled the lawsuit out of court.
William Carroll, chairman of the port authority's board of directors when Mr. Hartung was fired and who returned to that office in January, said he was "shocked," but he wouldn't elaborate. "I haven't talked with him since we fired him," Mr. Carroll said.
A. Bailey Stanbery, a veteran port director, said he respected Mr. Hartung and also was surprised by what had happened.
"I believed in him. We all did," Mr. Stanbery said Thursday. "He should have been up front with it."
Jerry Chabler, a current port authority director who also was on the board during Mr. Hartung's presidency -- but was not a member during the firing -- said he couldn't understand why Mr. Hartung would tell a prospective employer he had retired from the port authority.
"I would think he would have assumed they would check that. The best thing he could do was tell them," Mr. Chabler said. "It's sad. Everybody deserves a second chance, but I thought Jim would be smarter than this."
In February, 2009, Ms. Teigland sued the port authority and Mr. Carroll for $750,000 each, claiming that a port authority statement explaining Mr. Hartung's dismissal defamed her. That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial March 18.
Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.
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