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The [Thursday] Papers

"Chicago Public Schools' inspector general told the school board Wednesday that the district has stalled his investigation of a possible ethics violation involving its top lawyer by invoking attorney-client privilege," the Tribune reports.

"Inspector General Nicholas Schuler's office had been looking into whether a $250,000 contract awarded to Jenner & Block, the law firm where CPS general counsel Ronald Marmer was formerly a partner, amounted to a breach of the school board's ethics policy. In a March 30 disclosure statement, Marmer acknowledged he receives severance payments from the firm.

"Schuler complained during the public comment portion of Wednesday's board meeting that 'the board's assertion of privilege is preventing my office from accessing relevant documents and interviewing attorneys who likely have information pertinent to the investigation.'"

So, just to be clear: CPS's inspector general went to the school board meeting yesterday in order to use the public comment period to lob his accusation.

That, my friends, exhibits a certain level of frustration - and a desire to embarrass board members while making sure a story that first broke in July stays in the news. You might call it chutzpah. I call it awesome.

"Unless the (inspector general's office) is granted the access it needs, a critical undermining of the public trust will result," Schuler said. "Without access, the board will be effectively saying that the OIG cannot fully investigate possible violations of the board's own ethics policies by the general counsel. And worse yet, that it can stop the OIG's independent investigation by simply choosing to assert the privilege."

From the Sun-Times in July:

The Chicago Board of Education approved a deal Wednesday that will pay as much as $250,000 to a law firm where Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and his handpicked general counsel, Ron Marmer, both formerly worked and that still has financial ties to Marmer, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Acting in closed session, the Board of Ed formally voted to hire Jenner & Block LLP at the behest of Claypool for work it already had done preparing a never-filed lawsuit against the state seeking increased funding.

Marmer left Jenner & Block in 2013 but is set to receive severance payments from the law firm totaling $1 million, according to records and interviews.

Marmer didn't respond to interview requests, and CPS declined to make him available.

Here's where the story really got interesting:

The school board initially balked at Claypool's recommendation to hire Marmer. After failing to muster the votes to approve his appointment at its September 2015 meeting, the board agreed to so the following month, though two board members opposed Marmer's appointment to the $185,000-a-year post.

Marmer had no experience working for a school district or other public agency, but Claypool - tabbed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as his schools chief a year ago - pointed to Marmer's background as a securities litigator.

Marmer and Claypool worked together decades ago at Jenner & Block. Claypool worked there in 1982, his first job out of law school. Marmer was at the firm from 1978 to 1993 and from 1997 until 2013.

Marmer - who was a sole practitioner after leaving Jenner & Block and started work at CPS on Nov. 2, 2015 - has made $24,000 in campaign contributions to Claypool's bids for elected office since 2003, including $10,000 toward Claypool's unsuccessful run for Cook County assessor in 2010. Marmer also gave $5,000 to Emanuel's 2011 campaign for mayor.

The Sun-Times followed up in October:

The top attorney for the Chicago Public Schools supervised work done for CPS by a law firm that's still making $200,000-a-year severance payments to him, email records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

When the Sun-Times first reported in July that CPS had hired Jenner & Block LLP, schools CEO Forrest Claypool said his hand-picked general counsel, Ronald Marmer, "recused himself" and had no role in choosing the firm.

But the newly obtained documents show Marmer reviewed drafts of a lawsuit the firm was preparing to file on behalf of CPS and sent revisions of the planned suit to Jenner & Block lawyers.

The records also show Claypool knew Marmer was communicating with Jenner & Block about the case.

Now, to be fair, a general counsel who recuses himself from deciding which law firm to hire for a particular case shouldn't necessarily be expected to not work with whichever firm is hired, even if he used to be in their employ and is still getting severance checks from the firm. Should he? If so, basically any lawyer with ties to a any firm that bids for CPS work would be disqualified for holding the general counsel job.

Under CPS' ethics code, employees are barred from exercising any sort of "contract management authority" over a schools contractor "with whom the employee has a business relationship."

The ethics code defines a business relationship as a transaction worth at least $2,500 in a calendar year to a schools' official. And the code's definition of contract management authority includes "supervision of contract performance."

Oh.

CPS spokeswoman [and former newspaper reporter] Emily Bittner says officials "concluded that Mr. Marmer's participation on substantive issues was consistent with the board's ethics policy."

Uh-huh.

*

According to the Sun-Times, IG Schuler began his investigation into the matter last summer, after the paper's July report.

"Schuler said he believes his office has the right to the information it's been denied by the Claypool administration," the Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

"'The assertion of the attorney-client privilege by the board against the OIG is not only contrary to the OIG's express right in the Illinois school code to have, and I quote, access to all information and personnel necessary to perform the duties of the office, but it's also contrary to past board practice,' Schuler said."

*

Here's the kicker:

"Frank Clark, the Board of Ed president, responded by suggesting to Schuler that the discussion be continued behind closed doors."

But Schuler was making his remarks in public because closed-door discussions had gotten him nowhere. He was driven to using the public comment period of a board meeting to air his grievance!

He did meet, though.

*

"After a closed session meeting of about half an hour, Schuler would only say that the matter remained unresolved."

LOfuckingL.

Can't Schuler just sue? Isn't this a violation of inspector-client privilege?

*

"Claypool, running out of CPS after that meeting, wouldn't say whether privilege would be waived, saying, 'That's a board issue.'"

And they're handling it quite well!

*

Somehow Chicago's mayors consistently find the most frustrating people in the city to lead CPS. It's an even more frustrating agency than the CPD. Think about that. These are the people in charge of our schools. They're supposed to be the good guys.

*

P.S.:

-

Trump Advisors Aim To Privatize Oil-Rich Indian Reservations
"The plan dovetails with Trump's larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production. It could deeply divide Native American leaders, who hold a range of opinions on the proper balance between development and conservation.

"The proposed path to deregulated drilling - privatizing reservations - could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture."

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The Kool-Aid Report: Slurpee-esque
You want to get to the playoffs, you gotta go through Disappointment City.

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BeachBook
A sampling.

Indiana Can't Compete On Costs. You Heard Me.

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Anheuser-Busch Giving Away Free Beer Fridges To Chicago Offices.

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7 Snobby Claims That Science Has Officially Debunked.

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30,000 Sandhill Cranes Flew Over Chicago In One Day.

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Disturbed vs. Beyonce For Best Rock Grammy: 'Something Has Gone Wrong.'

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Beat out CEOs from Arby's and Checkers.

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The Beachwood Tronc Line: Rebuilding.



Permalink

Posted on December 8, 2016


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BOOKS - Bannon, The Best And The Brightest.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Descending Darkly.


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