Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday did his favorite dance — the side-step — when faced with questions about two recent controversies: the resignation of Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and yet another case where the Law Department withheld evidence in a criminal trial.
Claypool resigned last Friday after being exposed by CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler as the architect of a “full-blown cover-up.”
The resignation came after a two-day period that saw the mayor defend his friend of nearly 40 years and give every indication he would allow Claypool to ride out the storm caused by his decision to “repeatedly lie” during two rounds of questioning from Schuler during an ethics investigation.
After presiding over Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Emanuel was asked what had changed between his unwavering defense of Claypool and Claypool’s decision to resign.
“Forrest made a decision and I don’t think there is much more to add. He was clear. I was clear,” the mayor said, responding to questions for the first time since Friday’s bizarre resignation announcement.
“As I said then — and I’ll repeat — people get judged on the lifetime of their service and their effort. Forrest, as somebody who’s been in public life and served in different capacities, made a decision and he was up-front about his change of mindset.”
Emanuel seemed annoyed when a Chicago Sun-Times reporter tried to return to the original question: Why did Claypool have to go and why did the mayor who defended him for two days let him go?
“In all due respect, this is not a debate,” the mayor said.
“That’s a question for him and for you to ask him. I still believe that Forrest … ” The mayor never completed the sentence.
The mayor did a similar dance when asked about his administration’s decision to settle a major police misconduct case — in the middle of closing arguments — after it was discovered the city again failed to produce a critical disciplinary report involving the accused officer.
“The corporation counsel has addressed that and there’s not much more for me to address on that,” the mayor said.
Emanuel was asked again to explain why judges have sanctioned the city repeatedly for withholding evidence in police misconduct cases and why it happened again — for the eighth time — under his watch?
“Which is why I brought Winston & Strawn in to clean up that record and give us a set of recommendations,” the mayor said.
Two years ago, the city was sanctioned for failing to turn over to the family of Darius Pinex, a 27-year-old black motorist shot by Chicago Police, a key recording of a police radio transmission central to the police version of why the car driven by Pinex was pulled over by officers in the first place.
Soon after, Emanuel hired former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to conduct an exhaustive review of the Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division of the city’s Law Department.
After a six-month investigation costing taxpayers $1.6 million, Webb recommended more than 50 policy changes but found no “evidence establishing a culture, practice or approach” of “intentionally concealing evidence or engaging in intentional misconduct.”
Last week, it happened again.
The city abruptly agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of two men struck and killed in 2009 by an intoxicated former Chicago Police detective while they were changing a tire on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
The city waved the white flag just four days after surrendering a document that should have been turned over to plaintiffs’ attorneys before the trial. It dramatically strengthened their claim that a police “code of silence” led former Detective Joseph Frugoli to believe he could drink and drive without consequence.
Those documents described how Frugoli was suspended for five days in 1992 after he allegedly punched two people at the First Base Tavern in Bridgeport.
The off-duty cop later admitted he’d been drinking but “was not intoxicated.” A sergeant would testify she’d reached the same conclusion. But Frugoli was never given a field sobriety test or Breathalyzer, records show, and was allowed to drive away from the scene.