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CPS promotes longtime labor attorney to top lawyer job

Chicago Public Schools officials have chosen for their top attorney one of six lawyers who warned the former CEO of an ethics violation by his general counsel that eventually ousted the former schools boss.

Joseph Moriarty is best known as CPS’ labor chief who has negotiated several contentious contracts with the Chicago Teachers Union, including the one that ended the 2012 strike. He’s worked at CPS since 2004, and his appointment continues a trend under homegrown CEO Janice Jackson of elevating filling top posts in the country’s third largest school district from within. It’s not yet clear who’ll succeed him to deal with the CTU contract that expires in June.

School board president Frank Clark announced Moriarty’s promotion in a letter Tuesday to legal staff: “(H)e will take his outstanding judgement (sic), unparalleled institutional knowledge, and gift for creative problem solving” to the post vacated suddenly in December.

That’s when Ronald Marmer stepped down amid findings that he had violated the district’s ethics policy by overseeing work done by a law firm that paid him severance, a violation that CEO Forrest Claypool tried to cover up. Claypool lied to the schools inspector general during a probe sparked by Chicago Sun-Times reporting, forcing him to resign, too.

Moriarty had advised Claypool of the ethics violation, one of four internal lawyers and two outside attorneys to give an opinion the CEO ultimately ignored.

Remaining on CPS’ payroll is Douglas Henning, Marmer’s first deputy who will continue in that role, Clark said, calling the pair “an excellent team.”

Henning moved to CPS from the Chicago Transit Authority where he had worked for Claypool, and was brought to CPS days before Marmer’ former firm began billing CPS for legal work.

CPS spokesman Michael Passman said late Tuesday that Henning, who was briefly interim general counsel, would be paid $165,000 a year as first deputy, up from the $150,000 he earned as of December 31 for doing the same job. Moriarty, who had been earning $160,000, will make $180,000, $5,000 less than what Marmer was paid per year.