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CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler under investigation

Schuler, whose own investigations forced out two previous Chicago Public Schools CEOs, is now under scrutiny himself amid accusations he allegedly berated employees.

Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler
Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler
Sun-Times Media

Nicholas Schuler, the inspector general whose investigations of the Chicago Public Schools led to the ouster of two former CEOs, is now under scrutiny himself amid accusations he allegedly berated employees.

Anonymous complaints about Schuler, 52, prompted the city’s school board to hire an outside law firm to conduct a probe.

One of the complaints, purporting to be from “employees in the office of Inspector General for Chicago Public Schools” and obtained by the Sun-Times, said that “the IG has created a toxic workplace for everyone.”

The complaint, which was not dated, continues: “He is verbally abusive to employees and yells at people so loud that the entire office can hear him. He made people cry when yelling at them. He also throws ‘temper tantrums’ and becomes physically threatening by slamming doors and other things.”

In December, the law firm gave the Board of Education a report with its findings, a source told the Sun-Times.

Schuler did not return calls and messages seeking comment Friday.

CPS spokesman Michael Passman declined to comment. Board President Miguel Del Valle didn’t respond to messages.

Who oversees the IG’s office is unclear.

State law dictates that the “Inspector General shall be independent of the operations of the board.”

The mayor alone appoints the IG to a four-year term and can appoint a successor if “a vacancy in that office otherwise occurs,” the law says.

In 2014, Schuler was promoted by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to inspector general while he was serving as second in command in the office.

Schuler played a key role in his office’s investigation that led to criminal charges against Emanuel’s appointed CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is still serving a four and a half year prison sentence after admitting she steered no-bid contracts to her former employer for the promise of kickbacks.

Then, prompted by reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times, Schuler built a case against Byrd-Bennett’s replacement, Forrest Claypool, who lied to cover up an ethical violation by the friend he installed as CPS’ general counsel. Claypool, with whom Schuler had frequently sparred about jurisdiction over investigations and over Claypool’s hires, also was forced out.

Emanuel renewed the IG’s appointment in 2018, granting him a second four-year term. The Board of Education, in a resolution, “acknowledged” the appointment, made in June of that year.

In 2019, Schuler’s office joined the investigations into the massive sexual abuse scandal at CPS, taking over all investigations of student abuse allegations and reviewing past sexual abuse cases to see if anyone else still working for CPS should be held accountable.

As IG, Schuler also bumped up the frequency of his office’s findings and created a data-analysis unit to his office, which uncovered improprieties in preschool admissions.

Born into a family of police officers, Schuler served in the Chicago Police Department for nine years, including as a sergeant in its internal affairs department, according to his bio on the office’s website. After passing the bar, he worked in private practice at the law firm of Winston & Strawn, then joined the city’s office of the inspector general before landing in the schools’ inspector general’s office.