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What reason has Mayor Rahm Emanuel given us to believe him when he speaks about Chicago Public Schools?

We’ve been misled and misinformed.

Long before Thursday’s staggering federal indictment of former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Team-Emanuel-obfuscate-the-truth game was in play.

On Oct. 12, 2012, I asked the mayor if he was firing his first school’s chief, Jean-Claude Brizard, only 17 months into his tenure.

Marin: “Why do people inside City Hall privately insist that J.C. Brizard is a goner?”

Mayor: “You know what, this is like the rumor du jour. … I’ve said before he has my confidence.”

The very next “jour,” Brizard was a dead man.

OPINION


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Why lie, I asked the mayor’s then-press secretary?

It wasn’t a lie, she insisted, “We were working out the details so any discussion then would have been premature.”

Too early, I guess, to trust the taxpaying public with the truth.

This summer in the wake of a federal probe and worsening fiscal crisis, I interviewed then-Interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz, another Emanuel appointee. “Does Board Chairman David Vitale enjoy the full confidence of you and the mayor?” I asked. “Yes,” said Ruiz.

Vitale was gone the next day.

In a text, I protested we had been “played by the mayor’s office” in what was the “antithesis of transparency. It’s gaming information.” His answer was off the record and uninspiring.

We, the public, did not learn of Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s profiteering relationship with a private education company from CPS. Nor from the mayor. Nor from the Chicago Board of Education, which to this day is afraid to challenge him. No, it was thanks to Catalyst, an independent education newsletter and an intrepid reporter Sarah Karp who, two years ago, asked simple questions. Why did Byrd-Bennett’s former consulting company get a no-bid $20 million contract almost immediately after she was hired? A company most educators knew nothing about? A company the Emanuel administration had worked with in hiring Brizard before firing him and hiring Byrd-Bennett? At a time when the board was so broke it was shuttering 50 schools?

People, Sarah Karp simply started with a Google search!

Did CPS’ army of lawyers, staffers, and pinstripe board members — including Andrea Zopp who is now running for U.S. Senate — ever consider asking those questions? Or were they too afraid to cross the guy on City Hall’s fifth floor?

I asked U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon about all the checks and balances that should have caught this fraud early.

He said he could only speak of the indictment, not of failures in the system.

And yet when current CPS CEO Forrest Claypool — a self-styled reformer — was asked for his reaction to the indictment, his response was pathetic.

“I don’t think it reflects on CPS,” he said anemically.

Mayor Emanuel was worse.

“I’m disappointed to learn about the criminal activity.”

Not outraged?

Not accountable for a failure of your administration to fully vet such a crucial player?

In Chicago, the mayor runs the schools. Always has.

But not ultimately responsible?

C’mon.

Own it, mayor.

Own it.
Follow Carol Marin on Twitter: Follow @CarolMarin

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