Chicago taxpayers have paid $4.5 million in legal and consulting fees tied to the federal civil rights investigation triggered by the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald — and the meter is still running.
The cost — up from a previous estimate of $3.8 million — is certain to rise even higher as invoices and expenses for January, February and March get submitted.
Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey called the work “ongoing” even though U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear he has no intention of pursuing a consent decree that would have included mandates, deadlines and the appointment of a federal monitor to ride herd over the Chicago Police Department.
“We process the bills as we receive them,” McCaffrey said.
The new totals include: $2.3 million to Taft Stettinius & Hollister through January; $1.1 million through December to the Washington D.C. law firm of Wilmer Hale that once counted Corporation Counsel Edward Siskel as a partner; and $985,391 to seven “consultants,” led by $902,333 for The Bromwich Group.
The consulting fees include a previously undisclosed $4,000 paid last July to former Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier. One month later, Lanier retired to become senior vice president of security for the National Football League.
Other consulting fees were paid to: Charles Ramsey ($36,490); Bobcat Training & Consulting ($31,376); LaFox Endeavor ($6,900); Peter Newsham ($5,637) and Charles A. Gruber Consulting ($4,553).
Siskel did not participate in the DOJ probe. Wilmer Hale has continued its work for the city even after Siskel replaced Corporation Counsel Steve Patton.
“The City of Chicago continues to work with the Department of Justice as we develop new policies and training to assist the city’s public safety efforts and benefit the residents of Chicago. As part of the efforts, the city continues to rely on experienced outside counsel and consultants for their expertise in civil rights investigations and reforms,” McCaffrey wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The decision to hire Wilmer Hale was made soon after the DOJ announced its investigation. There is absolutely no conflict, and Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel does not receive any benefit in the ongoing retention of Wilmer Hale.”
Last month, Sessions sent his strongest signal to date that Emanuel will be on his own — without court oversight — to implement the sweeping police reforms recommended by the Justice Department in the waning days of the Obama administration.
Sessions criticized the DOJ’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department as “pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based.” He said he was more concerned about supporting demoralized police officers than he was about negotiating a consent decree culminating in the hiring of a federal monitor to make certain police reforms are implemented in a timely fashion, no matter what it costs local taxpayers.
“We need to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I’m afraid we have done some of that. So, we’re going to pull back on this,” Sessions told a conference of state attorneys general from across the nation.
Emanuel already has signed an “agreement in principle” to negotiate a consent decree; he responded to Sessions’ statements by reiterating that there was no turning back on the road to police reform — with or without a decree.
The financial burden on Chicago taxpayers would have been higher if Ramsey, the former Washington D.C. and Philadelphia police chief, hadn’t bowed out as a paid adviser last spring after billing the city for less than four months of work.
At the time, sources described the former Chicago deputy superintendent as troubled by Emanuel’s end-run around the Police Board that culminated in the selection of Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and equally disgusted by the degree to which the mayor’s office attempts to micromanage the Police Department — so much so that he urged top brass to “man up.”
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, has openly acknowledged that the mayor would be better off with a consent decree. That’s because the Black Caucus is demanding that Emanuel take a hard line in negotiations on a new police contract to remove hard-fought protections that the Task Force on Police Accountability report said turns the “code of silence into official policy.”
“It’s always easier when you can point to somebody else and say, ‘I’m sorry I’m doing this to you, but my hands are tied,'” O’Connor said.