The Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general has recommended that district CEO Forrest Claypool be fired for lying during an ethics investigation.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Inspector General Nicholas Schuler's recommendation came in a lengthy memo to school board members.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appointed Claypool in 2015 to lead the nation's third-largest school district, has acknowledged that Claypool had made a mistake, but also defended his overall performance.
“Forrest made a mistake,” Emanuel said in a written statement. “There’s no question about that, and I take that very seriously. But he was also big enough to stand up, admit his mistake and publicly apologize for it. That says a lot about who Forrest is, and that’s the Forrest I know.
“These are serious allegations, and I know the board is reviewing them with the scrutiny they merit — but Forrest himself has already acknowledged the lapse in judgment and apologized for it. And I think we should all take a deep breath before making snap judgments about a man with a sterling reputation and a sterling record of public service.”
In his memo to the board, Schuler says Claypool tried to block an ethics investigation of the district's top attorney.
When Claypool appointed Ronald Marmer as the school system’s general counsel, Marmer was still receiving $200,000 yearly payments from his former law firm, Jenner & Block. Claypool subsequently hired Jenner & Block to prepare a lawsuit seeking additional funding from the state and had Marmer oversee the firm’s work.
But the school system's ethics rules say employees can’t supervise work by contractors with whom they have a “business relationship."
The Sun-Times reports that documents from the Schuler's investigation of the possible ethics violation show Claypool scrambled to find legal justification for Marmer’s actions and appeared to be obstructing and delaying Schuler’s investigation. After six in-house and outside lawyers warned that Marmer had violated the district’s ethics code, Claypool brought in a seventh attorney who gave the green light for Marmer to oversee his old firm’s work.
In his findings, Schuler said Claypool’s allowing Marmer to supervise his old law firm’s work amounted to “a critical failure of executive judgment."
Responding to the report of Schuler's recommendation, school board President Frank Clark credited Claypool for “exemplary leadership” and said: “We take seriously our responsibility to thoughtfully and thoroughly review and evaluate this report and will do so.
Claypool became schools CEO in the wake of a bribery scandal that sent the previous schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, to prison. At the time, Claypool was the mayor’s chief of staff.