Mayor Rahm Emanuel is stepping up efforts to overhaul the Chicago Police Board, which has a history of reversing the superintendent’s recommendations to fire accused officers.
Investment banker John Simpson and Claudia Valenzuela, associate director of litigation at the Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center, will join the nine-member board charged with taking disciplinary action against wayward Chicago Police officers. William Conlon, a partner at the clout-heavy law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, has been re-appointed.
Simpson is a partner at Broadhaven Capital Partners. He contributed $55,300 to Emanuel’s re-election campaign and $25,000 to the super PAC created to re-elect the mayor and bolster his City Council majority.
Simpson’s resume also includes a 15-year stint as vice chairman of Wasserstein Perella & Co., the firm where Emanuel became a multi-millionaire during a brief career as an investment banker.
The two new members will join newly appointed Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who once ran the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Simpson refused to comment. Valenzuela could not be reached.
Critics have long argued new blood is needed on the Police Board to restore public trust severely shaken by police abuse cases and by the board’s history of reversing the superintendent’s recommendations to terminate accused officers.
The nine-member police board decides disciplinary cases in which the police superintendent seeks to fire or suspend an officer for more than 30 days and cases in which the superintendent and the Independent Police Review Authority disagree on the recommended punishment. Suspensions ranging from six to 30 days are also reviewed upon request.
A Chicago Sun-Times review of the board’s decisions found police Supt. Garry McCarthy loses most of the cases in which he seeks to fire an officer.
The board considered requests to fire 25 officers between March 2014 and March 2015. The board fired only seven officers, two of whom already had been convicted of criminal charges in separate court cases. Of the 18 who kept their jobs, 13 were found not guilty of wrongdoing and restored to duty, and five others were either suspended or reprimanded for misconduct.
The board also fired one officer the superintendent sought to suspend. In four other cases, the board downgraded the punishments of four fired cops after they won appeals.
Last year, the Police Board voted 5 to 4 to fire Chicago Police officer Timothy McDermott for joining another former officer in posing for a racist photograph with rifles as they stood over a black man lying on his belly with deer antlers on his head.
The four dissenters — including now replaced board members Elisa Rodriquez and Susan McKeever — argued that McDermott should only have been suspended. But a majority of the board wrote that “appearing to treat an African-American man not as a human being but as a hunted animal is disgraceful and shocks the conscience.”
McDermott lost his battle to overturn that decision in court.
Emanuel telegraphed his decision to breathe new life into Chicago’s boards and commissions during an hourlong interview with the Chicago Sun-Times before his second inauguration.
The mayor got the ball rolling on the board housecleaning by choosing Lightfoot as Police Board president. He then replaced four of seven members on a Chicago Board of Education who approved and defended the $20.5 million no-bid principal training contract at the center of a federal investigation with a company that once employed former Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Next up was the board overseeing the City Colleges of Chicago. The mayor appointed four new members to a seven-member board he handpicked to boost graduation rates and preside over a colleges-to-career makeover that prepares students for jobs in emerging industries. The new chairman is Dr. Charles Middleton, retiring president of Roosevelt University.
Now, the mayoral shakeup is moving to other boards and commissions.
Attorney Blake Sercye, who lost his race for Cook County commissioner despite powerful backing from Emanuel and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, gets a seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Carmen Rossi, the clout-heavy owner of the Hubbard Inn Restaurant, will become a member of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, along with architect Juan Moreno and Gabriel Ignacio Dziekiewcz, president of DesignBridge.
Joining the Illinois International Port District is Terrence Fitzmaurice, business manager and secretary treasurer of Painters District Council 14. The union contributed $100,000 to Emanuel’s re-election campaign.
The Illinois Medical District Commission will get two new members: Everett Rand, owner of Midway Airport Concessions and founder of the Chicago Football Classic, and Alejandra Garza, president of AGG Consulting.
At the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, Emanuel is re-appointing Mesirow Financial Chairman and CEO Richard Price and James Reynolds, chairman and CEO of Loop Capital Markets. When former Gov. Pat Quinn clouted his campaign manager into a job as executive director of the stadium authority, Price and Reynolds cast two of the three dissenting votes.