Here’s a look at what led to CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s review of CEO Forrest Claypool and how it has played out.
July 16, 2015: Forrest Claypool becomes CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, named by his old friend Mayor Rahm Emanuel to clean up CPS in the wake of a contracting scandal that landed former chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett in prison. He’s paid $250,000 a year.
Sept. 29, 2015: The Chicago Board of Education is asked to consider the hiring of Ronald Marmer as general counsel, an attorney who had no public sector experience but had once worked with Claypool at the law firm Jenner & Block, and gave to his past political campaigns. Lacking support, the vote is tabled.
Oct. 28, 2015: Marmer is approved as general counsel at a salary of $185,000 a year. In a rare dissent, two board members vote no. Around the time of his hiring, ethics adviser Andra Gomberg says she reviewed Marmer’s ethics form revealing he’s being paid $1 million in severance from Jenner & Block over five years.
Feb. 24, 2016: Board approves hiring Douglas Henning, who worked at the CTA under Claypool, as a $145,000 first deputy counsel at CPS under Marmer’s supervision.
March 3, 2016: Jenner & Block starts billing CPS for work preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking more funding from the state. The hiring of the firm has not been made public at this point.
May 10, 2016: Gomberg meets with CPS in-house labor attorney Joseph Moriarty and Marmer to release the decision of the district’s three-person ethics committee: Marmer cannot supervise Jenner & Block work because he has a business relationship with the firm.
May 12, 2016: Chicago Sun-Times files Freedom of Information requests for Jenner & Block contracts and invoices with CPS officials, who illegally stall the release for months. Claypool has an initial conversation with former CPS general counsel Pat Rocks of the law firm Jackson Lewis about Marmer and Jenner & Block.
May 31, 2016: Claypool has a follow-up conversation with Rocks.
June 1, 2016: Claypool has an initial telephone conversation with James Franczek, a longtime outside labor attorney for CPS and City Hall.
June 6, 2016: Claypool has a follow-up meeting with Franczek in person. Franczek tells IG he tried to hand Claypool his written opinion, but Claypool refused to take it.
June 7, 2016: Claypool has his initial conversation with attorney J. Timothy Eaton of the firm Taft Stettenius & Hollister.
June 10, 2016: Eaton issues a written opinion saying that Marmer has no economic interest in Jenner & Block. The letter does not address whether Marmer has a business relationship with the firm. The firm bills CPS $1,475 for the “Code of Ethics Opinion.”
June 20, 2016: Henning signs CPS’ letter of engagement with Jenner & Block, formally hiring the firm for the government rate of $295 an hour. An earlier letter was signed on March 30 that promised to pay Jenner its full higher hourly rates if it wins the lawsuit.
July 27, 2016: Board of Education approves spending up to $250,000 on Jenner & Block’s legal work. CPS releases contracts and invoices to the Sun-Times.
Aug. 8, 2016: CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler tells the Chicago Sun-Times he’s investigating Marmer’s ties to Jenner & Block.
Aug. 14, 2016: Sun-Times prints letter from Claypool saying, “we welcome the opportunity to answer questions from the inspector general or anyone else.”
Dec. 7, 2016: Schuler takes the unusual step of speaking to the board during public participation to say CPS is stonewalling his investigation by denying him access to witnesses and documents. After public meeting, Schuler asks Claypool to step out while the inspector talks to the Board. Claypool declines.
Jan. 1, 2017: Marmer removes one attorney from the ethics committee and replaces him with two non-attorneys who’ve previously worked for him or for Claypool.
Feb. 14, 2017: Represented by Jenner & Block, CPS files the lawsuit against the state. Claypool announces that Jenner, already paid $183,000, will work for free going forward.
June 23, 2017: Schuler gives secret interim memos on investigation to board members and Eaton who represents them. Says Marmer has violated the district’s code of ethics.
July 6, 2017: Board members vote to approve McDermott Will & Emery LLP, replacing Eaton in IG investigation. CPS agrees to pay McDermott $500 an hour for up to $250,000, an unusually high hourly rate for legal work.
Oct. 26, 2017: Schuler interviews Claypool at CPS headquarters.
Nov. 17, 2017: Claypool publicly apologizes to Schuler for a “mistake” he made when Schuler interviewed him, writing in an otherwise defiant letter that he did not recall asking that changes be made to a legal bill.
Dec. 5, 2017: Schuler sends his final confidential report to the Board of Ed, urging members to fire Claypool.
Dec. 6, 2017: Board president Frank Clark and Emanuel defend Claypool.
Dec. 7, 2017: CPS releases the Inspector General’s full report detailing Claypool’s coverup of Marmer’s ethics violation.