Letters: Claypool defends contract with firm linked to top aide

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool. | Sun-Times files

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In response to your editorial (CPS can’t afford to flunk ethics, transparency class — Aug. 12), as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, I take seriously the trust the public places in us and my responsibility to protect every dollar for our classrooms.

That’s why my administration pursued a potential civil rights lawsuit against the state of Illinois. With the district’s very survival at stake, and years of academic progress at risk because of a racially discriminatory funding system, retaining the finest legal counsel was paramount.

A last-minute settlement by Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislators altered the need for such a drastic measure. However, had the lawsuit been necessary, the skills of outside counsel could have been the difference between defeat and victory. That’s why, with the concurrence of CPS Board President Frank Clark, I sought out Jenner & Block, perhaps the nation’s leading litigation firm with a proven track record in civil rights cases. CPS’ general counsel himself is one of the country’s preeminent litigators, having served as the American Bar Association’s litigation chair.

The Sun-Times’ character aspersions are beneath the well-considered views of this editorial page. Our general counsel earns a tiny fraction of his private-sector pay and the attorneys at Jenner & Block took this case at steeply discounted rates, because of their belief in the cause. Few attorneys or firms of this stature and expertise would do so.

Further, in an abundance of caution, our general counsel recused himself from the decision to hire Jenner & Block and any negotiations on the economic terms of our agreement, despite no ability to influence set payments from the firm based on his prior service as a partner. This arrangement was appropriate, and we welcome the opportunity to answer questions from the inspector general or anyone else.

With such high stakes — protecting the civil rights of our children with a district on the precipice of financial ruin — I stand by our decision to hire the best of the best.

Forrest Claypool, CEO

Chicago Public Schools

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Make city pound a no-kill shelter

I commend Fran Spielman on her excellent article describing the unnecessary and sad death of a dog that was ill and neglected (“Death of dog at city pound fuels demand for ‘culture change‘” — Aug. 10). This is  one of many instances of poor care at Chicago Animal Care and Control that I have read about. One can only shudder at the thought of what is not made public. This is an $4.3 million-a-year agency that should have a competent, knowledgeable person to oversee it and hire only people who genuinely care, not people there for political payback. A no-kill policy must be instituted so that euthanizing will not be an option. Employees have to be invested in the well-being of all the animals who  depend on them.

Donna Jacob, Highland Park

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