The running tab for legal and consulting fees tied to the U.S. Justice Department Investigation of the Chicago Police Department has reached $5.7 million — and that’s not counting fees incurred since Mayor Rahm Emanuel drafted a memorandum of agreement in hopes of avoiding federal court oversight.
The cost, up from $4.4 million in March, is certain to rise even higher as invoices and expenses get submitted, negotiations with the Justice Department drag on, and the city defends itself against a class-action lawsuit filed by lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups seeking federal oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
The lawsuit accused Emanuel of reneging on his January commitment to negotiate a consent decree and, instead, of attempting to cut a “backroom deal” with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes court oversight over local police departments.
Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said “continuing down the road to reform is a priority” for Emanuel and, towards that end,” the city has relied on “experienced outside counsel and consultants for their expertise in civil rights and police reforms.”
“Their knowledge and contributions have been critical in developing the new use-of-force policy and other reforms, and they continue to play an important role as we work to reform the Chicago Police Department,” McCaffrey wrote in an emailed statement. “We will continue to rely on experts as we develop new policies and training to assist the City’s public safety efforts. These reforms will ensure our officers have the training and support they need and will strengthen the relationship with our residents as we work to make our city a stronger, safer place.”
The new totals include: $2.6 million to Taft Stettinius & Hollister through June; $1.6 million through April to Washington D.C. law firm of Wilmer Hale, which once counted Corporation Counsel Edward Siskel as a partner; and $1.3 million to The Bromwich Group.
Siskel did not participate in the DOJ probe. Wilmer Hale continued its work for the city even after Siskel replaced Steve Patton as corporation counsel.
The consulting fees include a previously disclosed $4,000 paid last summer to former Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier. One month later, Lanier retired to become senior vice president of security for the National Football League.
Other consulting fees were paid to: Charles Ramsey ($37,490); Bobcat Training & Consulting ($31,376); LaFox Endeavor ($6,900); Peter Newsham ($5,637) and Charles A. Gruber Consulting ($4,553).
Inspector General Joe Ferguson, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, have all demanded that Emanuel honor his promise to seek federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
After a private meeting with the mayor in June, Madigan said Emanuel is “scared” of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department and the decades of financial pressure that would be put on beleaguered taxpayers.
“They don’t want a 40-year consent decree a la Shakman or the Cook County Jail. They also don’t want a federal judge taking over the city’s already precarious budget,” she said then.
But Madigan also argued that the door to federal court oversight was “not closed” and that Emanuel recognizes that “reform won’t work if the public doesn’t buy into it” and the “growing resistance” shows there is no public buy-in.
The mayor has refused to release the memorandum of agreement he forwarded to the Justice Department in June. It’s not known whether he has made any changes in response to criticism that the agreement includes no specific timelines or financial commitments.