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Days after re-appointment, Lightfoot gets $100K communications help

Lori Lightfoot held a news conference at City Hall last year to urge Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be more transparent in his efforts to reform civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. | Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to reappoint outspoken Police Board President Lori Lightfoot after being boxed in by the politics of police reform.

Now, the mayor is granting Lightfoot’s year-old request for a communications consultant for the Police Board charged with disciplining wayward police officers.

The city’s $100,000 contract with Grisko LLC calls for the firm to “assist in communicating with a variety of audiences, including the general public, elected officials, individuals and groups active on police accountability issues, members of the Chicago Police Department, and the media.”

Founder Carolyn Grisko served as a deputy press secretary under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, then went on to manage Daley’s 1995 re-election campaign. The firm briefly employed Emanuel’s former communications director Kelley Quinn.

Grisko Communications was paid $1.2 million over a four-year period ending in 2007 to provide “general aviation consulting services” tied to the massive O’Hare Airport expansion project, records show.

Compared to those payments, the two-year, $100,000 Police Board contract is small potatoes. But Lightfoot considers the work essential.

“In early 2016, we started getting inundated with media requests to comment and speak at things and deal with a lot of requests for information on current cases and old cases,” Lightfoot said Wednesday.

“We want to have a strategy to make sure we effectively communicate what the Police Board’s mission and scope is because there continues to be confusion about the board’s authority. For all of those reasons, it made sense to have a communications assistant not unlike what a lot of city departments have.”

The avalanche of media requests triggered by the November 2015 release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video and the nationwide search for a replacement for fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy “hasn’t lessened at all,” Lightfoot said.

“If anything, it’s continued. There’s a heightened awareness of all parts of the police infrastructure,” she said.

“The Police Department has a whole communications team. IPRA has communications resources. So does the inspector general. In light of the increased demand for information and our desire to make sure we’re effectively communicating with the public, it made sense for us to have this modest investment.”

Grisko was the “only one who applied” after the Department of Procurement Services issued a “request for quotations” from more than a dozen communications firms owned by minorities and women, Lightfoot said.

Asked what services she plans to provide for the Police Board over the next two years, Grisko pointed to the demands Emanuel made before agreeing to re-appoint his outspoken critic.

“One of the mayor’s requests for Lori was that they issue an annual report every year and on time,” Grisko said.

“Their meetings sometimes attract a lot of protesters. There have been some very robust meetings. There’s a need for organization and making sure venues are appropriate and security is arranged.”