Chicago Public Schools food service manager Louise Esaian could lose her job for allegedly accepting free meals, Target gift cards and even Green Bay Packers tickets from two vendors with multimillion-dollar food service contracts.
Since 2008, Esaian, two staffers and other CPS employees allegedly accepted gifts worth more than $86,000 from food service vendors Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality and Preferred Meals Systems, according to a source familiar with the findings of an inspector general investigation.
Inspector General James Sullivan didn’t accuse Esaian of a crime, but he recommended Esaian and two other employees be disciplined, the source said.
Chicago Public Schools CEO John-Claude Brizard, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s blessing, said he plans to terminate Esaian from the $147,000-a-year job she’s had since 2007. The fate of the other two employees remains uncertain.
“It is Chicago’s children – the very people we are charged to protect – who get hurt when someone in the public service abuses their position for private benefit,” Emanuel said in a statement issued Saturday.
For more than three years, Esaian and other CPS employees received gifts that included $25 Target gift cards that were passed out at regular “appreciation luncheons,” the source said. The inspector general reviewed expense reports from both food vendors showing that Esaian regularly attended after-work dinners with company representatives who picked up the check. She also accepted Green Bay Packers tickets that she used for herself and family members. Cash was never exchanged and it isn’t clear how much the gifts accepted by Esaian were worth, the source said.
CPS employees are required to report accepting gifts worth more than $50. Esaian and the other two employees charged with ethics violations never reported receiving gifts, the source said.
Esaian’s “blatant and utter disregard for our district’s code of ethics is unacceptable,” Brizard said.
Esaian couldn’t be reached for comment.
The IG probe called for sanctions against Chartwells and Preferred, and additional monitoring of their contracts that together total more than $75 million.