Emanuel allies demand ‘independent review’ of Lightfoot’s Police Board cases

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Lori Lightfoot (right) with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and their 10-year-old daughter, Vivian, at the news conference announcing her candidacy for mayor. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Eight Chicago aldermen, several of them closely aligned with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on Wednesday demanded an “independent review” of all Chicago Police Board cases decided by mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot on grounds that Lightfoot was using her position as Police Board president as a springboard to run for mayor.

In a press release, the aldermen said they were “deeply disturbed” to learn that Lightfoot “sought reappointment” to the nine-member board that presides over police discipline at a time when she was “simultaneously putting the building blocks in place” to run against the mayor who reappointed her.

They noted that she “purchased a campaign website just weeks” after she was reappointed by a mayor boxed in by the politics of police reform.

The names of eight aldermen appear at the bottom of the press release. They are: Derrick Curtis (18th); Matt O’Shea (19th); Michael Scott (24th); Danny Solis (25th); Walter Burnett (27th); Emma Mitts (37th); Nick Sposato (38th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st).

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Napolitano is a former Chicago Police officer-turned-firefighter who represents a far Northwest Side ward that is home to scores of police officers. Many of O’Shea’s Southwest Side constituents are also police officers.

O’Shea, Solis, Burnett and Mitts are among Emanuel’s closest City Council allies.

“For months after Ms. Lightfoot purchased her own mayoral campaign site, she continued to oversee the work of a Board that must be above politics. She never disclosed to the public that she had purchased a mayoral campaign website,” the statement said.

“This failure to be forthcoming with the public taints the work of the Board. Given Ms. Lightfoot’s dishonesty about her intentions, we question whether the Police Board cases decided under her watch were used to advance her political ambitions or were decided on the merits of the cases.”

For that reason, the aldermen said they are “calling for an independent review of all cases decided by” Lightfoot.

“We cannot allow one person’s underhanded actions to advance her political ambitions and undermine the independence and integrity of the Police Board,” the statement said.

“The Police Board plays a critical role in Chicago’s civilian oversight of public safety and its work is too important to be politicized or to be used as a political launching pad.”

The Lightfoot campaign said there is “no way to characterize” the demand for an investigation of the Police Board cases she handled as anything but a “complete political stunt, clearly born out of fear.”

“Not one of these Alderman ever cared enough to show up to a Police Board meeting or weigh in on a ruling,” the statement said.

“They have good reason to feel threatened by Lori’s candidacy. She’s focused on ushering in a new progressive course for the city that emphasizes equity, inclusion, and listening to the people.”

Last week, the Chicago Tribune quoted campaign spokesman Ken Snyder as saying that Lightfoot bought the names lightfootforchicago.com, lorilightfoot.com and lightfootformayor.com last August to protect herself against someone else purchasing those domain names and creating a website in her name.

He called it a “smart thing for her to do,” particularly because she is an attorney.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times two days before declaring her candidacy, Lightfoot said the issues she cares deeply about—economic justice, violence and police reform—have either “stagnated or gotten worse” in the nine months since she accepted reappointment from a mayor boxed in by the politics of police reform.

So much so that she’s “lost confidence” that Emanuel is the “right leader for us going forward.”

Sposato has had his differences with the mayor, but his decision to join in the call for an independent investigation is no surprise.

Last week, Sposato accused Lightfoot of committing the “ultimate act of betrayal” by using the dual political platform the mayor gave her to hammer him and attempt to take his job.

He noted that Emanuel appointed and re-appointed her as Police Board president and chose Lightfoot to co-chair the Task Force on Police Accountability, whose scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video laid the groundwork for the U.S. Justice Department to do the same.

“It’s unconscionable what she’s doing. I’m so furious about this. It’s disloyalty at its best,” Sposato said on the day Lightfoot declared her candidacy.

“When somebody you trust to do a job flips on you, to me, that’s the ultimate betrayal. It’s not something you do in life. It’s almost like she cheated with her brother’s wife. It’s just plain wrong. Garry McCarthy is a different story. He was fired.”

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