The City of Evanston late this afternoon announced plans to hire an outside firm to investigate reports of sexual harassment of female lifeguards and other employees on the city’s lakefront.

In a statement the city said it’s confident that several steps taken after the claims of harassment and sexual misconduct were first made to city officials by four seasonal workers at the lakefront a year ago “have improved the work environment.”

But the statement adds that “it takes ongoing, sustained work to transform a culture.”

The outside firm, the city says, will “conduct a thorough, impartial investigation of every aspect of the situation, and will be sharing further updates with the community in the near future.”

The city statement today follows a closed-door special City Council meeting on the topic Saturday evening.

That meeting was called after WBEZ Radio on Friday reported on a petition signed last year by 50 lakefront workers alleging a variety of improper activities that allegedly occurred over a period of several years.

Earlier this year the station had reported on similar charges of sexual harassment and assault among Chicago Park District lifeguards.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.