Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool engaged in a cover-up by altering records and lying to mask the true purpose of a bill for legal advice I have requested to ward off a probe by the district's watchdog, according to a report from Inspector General Nicholas Schuler
Claypool "repeatedly lied" during the inspector general's investigation by denying he had asked veteran CPS labor attorney to make changes to the bill, said Schuler, who has recommended that Claypool be fired.
"At every turn in this matter, Claypool kept making matters worse. And it appears that his decisions were driven by a clear desire to keep information harmful to his narrative from the Board, the OIG and the public, "Schuler wrote in his report, which was made public Thursday morning.
At City Hall, Major Rahm Emanuel on Thursday doubled down on his defense of his old friend Claypool, saying the CPS boss showed character in admitting he had made the mistake.
Emanuel said Claypool has a right to present his side of what led up to Schuler saying Claypool should be removed.
"There's always two sides, and Forrest deserves the right to be heard, and he's preparing to have that," Emanuel told reporters after a naturalization ceremony he attended in City Council chambers.
" I have acknowledged where it was wrong and took responsibility for it, "Emanuel said Thursday of Claypool. "That is a sign of character. And he did it in a very public way. "
Emanuel did not respond when asked Claypool's apology came only after he got caught in a cover-up.
The summary of a cover up allegedly committed by Claypool transformed to question of whether Claypool's handpicked CPS attorney, Ronald Marmer, violated district ethics policies into that case sparked the IG's call for Claypool's termination.
The IG is also recommending that Marmer be disciplined with a "lengthy suspension or even termination."  Marmer is one of several of Claypool's former colleagues and past political donors who have won district jobs and consulting contracts. The attorney has also received annual payments of roughly $ 200,000 as severance for his past career as a Jenner & Block partner – according to the IG and economic disclosure forms – in addition to his CPS salary.
CPS ethics policies prohibit employees from having an "economic interest" in district contracts and also bars employees from managing contracts with entities in which they have an economic interest. Employees are also barred from hiring vendors or entities with whom they have a "business relationship" – meaning they receive "compensation or payment" that entitles them to $ 2,500 or more in a calendar year.
CPS awarded Jenner & Block with a $ 250,000 contract last year to prepare for, and pursue, what was ultimately an aborted civil rights lawsuit meant to challenge Illinois' education funding model. Four in-house CPS attorneys said that Marmer violated the district's ethics policy by supervising Jenner & Block's work while he had an ongoing business relationship with the firm, Schuler said last summer in a preliminary internal report
Claypool then tapped two additional lawyers – veteran district labor attorney James Franczek and a former CPS general counsel – for additional opinions. Those attorneys also agreed to Marmer violated the ethics code. Claypool finally turned to a seventh attorney and political supporter, J. Timothy Eaton, who concluded Marmer's conduct did not violate the ethics code, according to the preliminary report
Claypool last month admitted to an invoice Franczek submitted for his services. Last month, in a letter to Schuler's office, Claypool apologized for intervening to reword an invoice for an outside legal opinion the CEO requested to weigh Marmer's compliance with district ethics policies. Claypool wrote that he told Schuler, during a formal interview, that he "did not recall" asking for such changes. Claypool's letter then acknowledged Schuler had unspecified documents that contradicted the CEO's initial claim.
Claypool's fate is ultimately up to the school board, Schuler said. The IG's report said he will forward to formal recommendation for Claypool's termination to the board in the near future.
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