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CPS to pay higher rate for former prosecutor reviewing sex abuse policies

Maggie Hickey. Photo courtesy of Schiff Hardin LLP.

Chicago Public Schools has agreed to pay the former federal prosecutor helping them clean up after a sexual abuse scandal $395 an hour, or about $100 more than they typically pay outside counsel.

Maggie Hickey, partner at Schiff Hardin LLP, agreed to the “blended rate” for herself and for colleague William Ziegelmueller, according to a May 22 contract she signed with CPS. Ziegelmueller was once one of the criminal defense attorneys for Tony Rezko, an aide to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Chicago’s Board of Education hired the firm in May for up to $500,000 to independently review its practices for handling its complaints of sexual abuse against students. Hiring the law firm was one of several responses to a Chicago Tribune series showing its many failures to protect students in sex abuse cases.

CEO Janice Jackson said parents will learn of Hickey’s initial recommendations in August before school start.

CPS typically has paid $295 an hour to outside lawyers, in accordance with the city’s practice, though it went as high as $500 an hour last year for a firm representing the school board in the ethics investigation that ousted former CEO Forrest Claypool. That rate, lower than what attorneys in the private sector charge, may change if Hickey’s work extends beyond December 31, according to the five-page contract.

Hickey also retained the right for the firm to represent clients now or in the future “in transactions or litigation adverse” to the school board. Schiff Hardin currently represents two parties in lawsuits involving CPS: the family of a student who’s suing CPS over an expulsion, and a bus company in a lawsuit filed by a former CPS employee who said he was fired for blowing the whistle on alleged collusion among bus contractors.

CPS spokesman Michael Passman wouldn’t say why Hickey would be paid more than the school system’s going rate, only that she’d be paid less than her hourly rate “to identify all steps that need to be taken to better prevent and address sexual abuse.”

Hickey was traveling and couldn’t be reached. She also was recently hired by Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan at $500 an hour to overhaul workplace culture throughout the Illinois House of Representatives after a string of sexual harassment complaints. She joined Schiff Hardin in April after leaving her post as executive inspector general under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.