The Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general is urging the Chicago Board of Education to fire schools chief Forrest Claypool, a longtime friend of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for lying during an ethics investigation, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday.
Inspector General Nicholas Schuler recommended Claypool’s firing in a lengthy, still-secret memo he gave to Board of Ed members late Tuesday, the sources said.
In the memo, Schuler reported his findings from a 16-month ethics investigation of CPS’ top attorney that he found Claypool tried to block, according to the sources.
“Forrest made a mistake,” Emanuel said in a written statement Wednesday night. “There’s no question about that, and I take that very seriously. But he was also big enough to stand up, admit his mistake and publicly apologize for it. That says a lot about who Forrest is, and that’s the Forrest I know.
“These are serious allegations, and I know the board is reviewing them with the scrutiny they merit — but Forrest himself has already acknowledged the lapse in judgment and apologized for it. And I think we should all take a deep breath before making snap judgments about a man with a sterling reputation and a sterling record of public service.”
* Press release…
After a 16-month CPS Inspector General’s investigation and news reports of disturbing ethics infractions, Attorney General candidate Jesse Ruiz is calling on Forrest Claypool, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, to resign immediately.
“I am calling on Forrest to do the right thing and resign from his post as CEO of Chicago’s Public Schools,” said Ruiz, who served for more than four years as Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education and also served as Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “Repeatedly misleading the Inspector General is unacceptable, especially at a time when trust in our government is at an all-time low. The people of Chicago expect our leaders to always set an example of integrity and not violate the public trust. Forrest has failed this test.
“From day one, I blew the whistle on the conflicts of interest that led to this investigation,” Ruiz added. “At every point, Mr. Claypool has stonewalled the Inspector General’s investigation, and his actions must have consequences. He should resign immediately.”
The CPS investigation has centered on whether Claypool acted improperly in urging the Board of Education to retain a law firm, even though the CPS general counsel’s ongoing financial relationship with the firm violated the school system’s conflict of interest policy.
When CPS ethics officers attempted to intervene, Claypool overruled them. Since then, the CPS Inspector General has repeatedly criticized Claypool for setting up roadblocks to interfere with the ongoing ethics investigation and for making repeated misstatements in interviews with investigators. Claypool has since apologized for those misstatements.
*** UPDATE *** From Forrest Claypool…
“I made a mistake. I can’t put my mind back in that high pressure place–when we were negotiating with the CTU and fighting to keep schools funded and open in the final days of the legislative session. But I look at the facts today and see that I misread the situation, and made mistakes in judgment, and I apologize for this.
“I pursued the goal of keeping schools open with the same single-mindedness with which I pursued every public position I’ve held over nearly 30 years. Like anyone else, I’m embarrassed by my mistakes, but remain proud of how we’ve moved this system forward despite seemingly insurmountable financial hurdles.
“However, let’s be clear about what this situation is and what it isn’t.
“This is not a case of anyone profiting off of CPS; no one in this story gained a dollar. This is not a case of anyone taking anything from children; this is a case of fighting to get more resources for children. In fact, the only ones who profited from this pursuit of justice were our students, who have another $450 million of funding from the state due to the efforts our team.
“To put this in perspective: This situation is about how I zealously tried to get Chicago students their fair share of state education dollars, after years and years racial discrimination, and getting those kids the best possible legal representation.
“While I continue to have a strong disagreement with Mr. Schuler’s interpretation of the Board policy – which I believe was written to prevent profiteering off the schools – I have already acknowledged that in my desire to ensure the best possible legal representation, and keep public attention focused squarely and solely on the civil rights injustice against CPS kids, that I mishandled some matters.
“I have fully acknowledged my mistakes in judgment and apologized. I apologize again today. But I do not regret the passion for justice that led to that mistake. I will always fight hard to ensure that CPS children, regardless of race or income, receive the educations they deserve.
“With apologies for errors I made along the way, I stand proud of the work I’ve done at CPS and throughout my career in service to the City of Chicago, to give its residents better parks, better trains and buses, and, most importantly, the best schools.”