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Mayor orders outside review of Law Dept. division where attorney hid evidence

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday ordered an independent “third-party review” followed by retraining in the Law Department division that employed a senior attorney who resigned in disgrace after concealing evidence in a police-shooting case.

Two days ago, the mayor told reporters it was “not possible” that his Law Department was part of the “code of silence” he has openly acknowledged exists in the Chicago Police Department.

When asked whether the Law Department should be included in the sweeping federal civil rights investigation of the Police Department he once called “misguided,” Emanuel said. “No. They’re working where they are.”

On Thursday, the mayor who has shifted gears repeatedly in the ongoing furor over his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video appeared to change his tune — again.

“I don’t direct the Justice Department. But if they come [into the Law Department], we’re going to cooperate and work with it. But there’s work we can get done . . . I’m going to get going on what we need to do,” the mayor said.

“[Corporation Counsel] Steve Patton in quick order is going to have a third-party, an independent entity, look at that division, make sure everybody is clear about the professional standards and then [conduct] the training that goes with it . . . That’s what will happen because it’s essential for people’s confidence.”

The division at issue is called the Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division, and has 59 employees and a budget of $4.7 million.

Does that mean the mayor now welcomes a Justice Department investigation of his Law Department? Is he open to it? Is he fine with it?

“I’m fine with — let me just be clear again so there’s no gotcha game here — Steve Patton is going to be announcing in quick order a third-party to come in on that division to be clear about what the professional standards are and then the training to go with it,” the mayor said.

“We obviously don’t direct the Justice Department. I don’t think that would be a good idea. And even if I did, they wouldn’t listen. [But] if they come in, we’re going to cooperate with them.”

As for the massive New Year’s Eve email dump that showed the mayor’s staff exerting message control over the so-called Independent Police Review Authority, Emanuel tried mightily to play it down. He argued that there was no conspiracy and no smoking gun.

“The independence of IPRA is quite clear in the emails — and every one of you have indicated that,” the mayor said.

“As it relates to answering your questions and inquiries in the media, we do that with all offices and coordinate it. It doesn’t impair the independence of their investigations.”

Emanuel said he has given newly appointed IPRA chief Sharon Fairley clear marching orders.

“To make sure that, even if somebody disagrees with a judgment IPRA makes, they don’t question the integrity of the office.”

Senior Corporation Counsel Jordan Marsh resigned Monday hours after a federal judge issued a harshly worded ruling that raised questions about whether the notorious “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department extends to the city’s Department of Law run by Patton, Emanuel’s only corporation counsel.

Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang ruled that Marsh had intentionally concealed evidence in a 2015 trial that culminated in a jury finding that two Chicago Police officers were justified in killing Darius Pinex during a January 2011 traffic stop.

Two Chicago Police officers testified that they had pulled the victim over after hearing a radio call about an Oldsmobile involved in a shooting that matched the description of the car Pinex was driving that night.

Marsh was accused of concealing the actual recording, which conflicted with the officers’ testimony, until midway through the trial. That’s even though the recording became available before the trial began.

The judge threw out the verdict, ordered a new trial and demanded that the city pay attorneys’ fees. Chang also accused the Law Department of poorly training and overseeing city attorneys, creating an environment that hampered production of records essential to prosecuting cases of police misconduct.

Emanuel did not say who would conduct the third-party review, how much, if anything, it would cost, or how far back it might go. Already, the Law Department is reviewing nearly 40 open cases handled by Marsh.

Last month, Emanuel fired his only police superintendent arguing that Garry McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor over the city’s decision to keep the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and wait until one week after the April 7 mayoral runoff to settle the case for $5 million even before the McDonald family had filed a lawsuit.

The video was released only after a judge ordered the city to do so.

The U.S. Justice Department subsequently opened a sweeping civil rights investigation that could ultimately lead to a court order and the appointment of a federal monitor similar to the one that rode herd over city hiring for nearly a decade.

Earlier this week, Emanuel said he has Patton’s back — just as he once had McCarthy’s, only to pull the rug out from his first police superintendent.

But the mayor put his corporation counsel on the clock to make certain that city attorneys never again conceal evidence.