Fired CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson and ousted Law Department spokesman land on city’s do-not-hire list

Better Government Association CEO David Greising says putting Johnson on the list can probably be justified, though including Bill McCaffrey is more questionable and might warrant a fresh look at the criteria.

SHARE Fired CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson and ousted Law Department spokesman land on city’s do-not-hire list
With Mayor Lori Lightfoot, his 10-year-old son and his wife looking on, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced his retirement Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.

When Eddie Johnson announced his retirement as Chicago Police Department superintendent in November, intending to serve through year’s end, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered kind words at the time. But by early December, the relationship had soured, and an angry Lightfoot fired him.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and former Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey were both fired by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in December.

Now they have something else in common: Both have been added to the city’s do-not-hire list.

It’s the personnel equivalent of a scarlet letter that bars them from being hired by the city and raises a red flag for any private employer. That’s particularly true for Johnson, who might otherwise land a job in corporate security.

The 29-page list of untouchables, released to the Chicago Sun-Times in response to a Freedom of Information request, includes 689 names. More than 100 of those have been added in the nine months since Lightfoot took office. All are listed as “ineligible to rehire” for a period defined as “indefinite.”

For Johnson, the reason is listed as “retirement-under inquiry.” For McCaffrey, the reason is listed as “discharge.”

Johnson could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Tom Needham, said the designation was “completely unnecessary, mean-spirited and serves no purpose other than to demean and hurt a good man who had a fine career.”

McCaffrey refused to comment.

The mayor’s office was tight-lipped.

“As authorized in City HR policy,adepartmentmay recommend a designation of ineligible for rehire at the time of an employee’s termination. Wedo not discussthe details of an individual personnel matter,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.

Under the policy, dated Feb. 1, 2019, a former employee “shall be deemed ineligible for rehire by the city if the employee’s termination” results from one of four employment actions.

They are “termination disciplinary” for career service employees; discharge for non-career service employees; resignation or retirement in lieu of discharge; and employees who “resigned or retired during an investigation by an independent investigatory agency in which the individual is the subject matter of the investigation and that investigation ultimately substantiated serious misconduct by the employee.”

A former employee “may be deemed resigned under inquiry in instances where the employee resigned ... while they were the subject of an active investigation ... but before findings in the investigation were issued or before the investigation concluded,” the policy states.

The fourth reason could apply to Johnson.

He was forced to retire a month earlier than planned after Lightfoot angrily accused the superintendent she had celebrated weeks before of “lying to me and lying to the public” about the circumstances surrounding an embarrassing night of drinking and driving in mid-October.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson is investigating the incident and has not yet released his findings.

The Sun-Times has reported that, rather than having “a couple of drinks” during a “dinner with friends,” as Johnson told the mayor, he spent three hours drinking at a restaurant known for serving tall drinks with a woman whom he had promoted to his security detail shortly after becoming superintendent.

After leaving Ceres Cafe, Johnson drove his police SUV to police headquarters and dropped off the woman, sources said. He tried to drive to his Bridgeport home but was found asleep with the engine running around 12:30 a.m. in the 3400 block of South Aberdeen.

In a statement issued the day after his firing, Johnson said he did “not intentionally mislead or deceive the mayor or the people of Chicago.”

Bill McCaffrey.

Bill McCaffrey, fired from the city’s Law Department in December, was placed on the city’s “do not hire” list.

Sun-Times file photo

McCaffrey apparently falls under the “discharge for non-career service” category.

Sources said he was fired for raising “ethical issues” with the mayor’s office and his boss, Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner.

Flessner has since acknowledged he had, for several years, received homestead tax exemptions by claiming both a west suburban home and a condominium on the Near South Side as his primary residence in apparent violation of a state law that prevents homeowners from earning those tax breaks on multiple properties.

Lightfoot has insisted she fired McCaffrey “for cause” after receiving information raising “serious questions” about his “professionalism and his judgment.”

David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, said adding Johnson to the list can probably be justified, though it marks an ignominious end for a reluctant superintendent whom Lightfoot has credited with steering CPD during the tumultuous period that followed the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

“Lying to the mayor about the circumstances surrounding that stop is a pretty significant failing on his part. He’s in a position of significant responsibility and his boss is asking him about the circumstances of that incident. He should tell her the truth,” Greising said.

McCaffrey’s addition is more questionable and probably warrants a fresh look at the guidelines, Greising said.

“The McCaffrey thing is particularly telling because there’s a question of whether or not that was political retribution,” Greising said.

“The criteria for people landing on this list could bear further examination. But I would do so against the backdrop of not introducing too much individual discretion, because then you create circumstance for favoritism and bias.”

The criteria for getting off the list may also warrant a second look. As it now stands, former employees may petition for removal from the list only once every two years — and only after providing proof the designation is “no longer valid or should be excused.”

The final call rests with the city’s Human Resources commissioner, but the decision is “discretionary.”

The do-not-hire list dates to the hiring scandals of the Daley administration. At its inception, the list was supposed to be confined to those who had disgraced or swindled the city.

The policy was revised most recently after a man who had washed out of the Chicago Fire Department training academy shot and killed three people at Mercy Hospital in November 2018. Despite being fired by CFD in 2014, however, Juan Lopez landed a 10-week internship in Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s 26th Ward office in 2017.

It includes: Jason Van Dyke, the now-convicted and imprisoned former Chicago Police Officer who fired the sixteen shots that killed Laquan McDonald; former Police Officer Anthony Abbate, whose drunken beating of a female bartender was captured on an infamous videotape; and now fired Officer Robert Rialmo, who fired the shots that killed a bat-wielding Quintonio LeGrier and his neighbor/bystander Bettie Jones.

The list also includes: John Bills, who was at the center of a $2 million bribery scandal that paid the convicted bureaucrat $2,000 for every additional intersection added to the city’s red light camera program; Jon Briatta, who master-minded a ghost payrolling scheme at the Jardine Water Filtration Plant; convicted former Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th) and Angelo Torres, who once ran the city’s disgraced Hired Truck program.

Contributing: Tim Novak

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