Another top Forrest Claypool aide is out over CPS’ residency rule

SHARE Another top Forrest Claypool aide is out over CPS’ residency rule

Budget director Matthw Walter presenting the Chicago Public Schools budget on Dec. 7. | Santiago Covarrubias / Sun-Times

Another top aide to Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool is out over failing to move to the city, as required under CPS’ residency rule.

Even before Matt Walter leaves his $140,000-a-year post, CPS has hired a new budget director to replace him — paying him nearly $30,000 a year more than Walter makes.

Walter, 36, was recommended for firing from his post in December, CPS acknowledges, after school system Inspector General Nicholas Schuler found that he lived in Evergreen Park.

But with CPS facing a financial crisis, Walter has been kept on.

Schuler declined to comment. But records show Walter submitted a letter of resignation in late January but is being allowed to remain in his job until March 31 — three months after Claypool and other top CPS officials were informed Walter’s Chicago address wasn’t really where he lives.

Walter, who did not respond to interview requests, is the second high-level Chicago schools employee to resign in 2017 in the wake of residency questions.

Jason Kierna, who followed Claypool to CPS from the Chicago Transit Authority, stepped down in January as CPS’ $165,000-a-year facilities chief amid questions about how much time he was spending at the La Grange Park home he owns with his wife. Sources say he, too, was interviewed by the inspector general’s office and then recommended for firing.

CPS officials say Kierna quit for family reasons.

In a letter of resignation, he wrote, “I had every intention of staying through the end of the week, but the recent events that unfolded have taken and continue to take an immense toll on my family and me.”

According to CPS, he will be paid $8,300 for 13 unused vacation days.

Another top official, Ronald DeNard, who as Claypool’s vice president of finance oversees the budget director, was granted a waiver of the residency rule in 2015 and allowed to keep living in Flossmoor, despite objections by the inspector general. He’s the last CPS official to seek such a waiver.

Brian Hamer. | LinkedIn

Brian Hamer. | LinkedIn

Brian Hamer has been brought in to replace Walter. Hamer, whoin January left his job as chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is being paid $169,700 a year by CPS. Hamer previously was city revenue director under former Mayor Richard Daley and state revenue chief under former governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn.

Asked about the nearly $30,000 difference in pay over what Walter makes, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner cites Hamer’s $186,000-a-year pay working for Preckwinkle and his “more than 25 years of public sector experience overseeing major government entities. As state revenue director, he managed 2,000 employees and directed the collection of $40 billion in revenue.”

Hamer, a lawyer who was editor of the law review at Columbia University, worked at City Hall when Claypool was Daley’s chief of staff in the early 1990s.

Walter is leaving as CPS is scrambling to make up for $215 million that city and school officials thought would be coming from the state until Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that bill.

Bittner says: “Hamer’s role will be to manage CPS’ precarious budget and help do everything possible to minimize classroom disruption. Given the complexity of both district and school budgets, the district asked that Mr. Hamer overlap with Matt Walter . . . to ensure the smoothest transition possible.”

Walter initially came to CPS as a $68,000-a-year budget analyst in 2009, while living in Evergreen Park. Under CPS rules, he had six months to move to Chicago, signing off in October 2009 that he understood “falsification of my statement…shall constitute grounds of discharge.”

In 2014, he and his wife bought a house — also in Evergreen Park. Walter’s name has remained on the property-tax bill sent to the south suburban address, which his wife lists on her car registration and driver’s license. His license and voter registration, though, list a Chicago address on the Far South Side that’s about three miles away.

Before the inspector general’s investigation of his residency last year, Walter got two raises in 2016 — one for $10,000 in February and then $15,000 more in October.

Matthew Walter, center, at a Chicago Board of Education meeting in February. | Max Herman / Sun-Times

Matt Walter, at the Chicago Board of Education meeting on Feb. 22. | Max Herman / Sun-Times

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