The Chicago Board of Ethics on Monday asked the inspectors general of the city and Chicago public schools to investigate Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s re-election campaign to determine whether the campaign violated the city’s ethics ordinance by recruiting student volunteers at CPS and City College in change of class credits .
The vote came after a closed executive session. As always, neither the committee’s agenda nor the case summary identified the subject of the investigation.
But calls for a full investigation by Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg and her CPS counterpart Will Fletcher make it clear that the subject is the mayoral re-election campaign, Lightfoot for Chicago.
The city’s ethics ordinance prohibits elected officials from using city time, resources, and information to mix politics with official business.
“The investigations conducted by the Inspector General’s Office are confidential. There are only very limited circumstances in which municipal code allows us to make any public statements about our investigative work. That said, in my view, the abuse of an official position for political gain has no place in Chicago. Not anymore,” Witzburg told al Sun-Times.
“If people are aware of any of these abuses, and particularly if city employees see that abuse in their workplaces, they should continue to call us. I appreciate today’s postponement by the board.”
Ethics committee chairman William Conlon said the board has advised candidates for city office and “everyone affiliated with the candidate in any way — to immediately and thoroughly delete their e-mail lists and remove any e-mail addresses government electronics”.
“The board also advises applicants and those associated with such applicants that emails and other forms of solicitation may be considered coercive if directed at city employees and those employed by Sister City agencies,” Conlon said.
“As always, the board is willing to offer confidential advice before action is taken.”
Last week, Lightfoot appeared before a phalanx of cameras to offer a rare public apology.
He didn’t have much choice.
The email Deputy Campaign Director Megan Crane sent to Chicago Public School teachers offered class credit to their students if they agreed to volunteer for the mayor’s re-election campaign.
Now, it threatens to further undermine the reformist image that catapulted Lightfoot into office.
The solicitation was “clearly a mistake” by a single campaign staffer, Lightfoot said, and will not be repeated.
The mayor says he knew nothing of the student recruiting effort until his campaign was questioned by WTTW Channel 11, which broke the story, and immediately admonished his deputy campaign manager for crossing a line. ethical line.
Lightfoot did not explain why his campaign initially defended email recruitment, or why his campaign solicited CPS teachers after a similar solicitation of City College teachers months earlier was rejected by City College administrators.
“I’m not just a candidate. I am the mayor and head of the schools. And this is the kind of awareness that should never have happened, whether through publicly available sources or not,” Lightfoot told reporters last week.
“There must be an impenetrable wall – not just a line, but a wall – between everything that happens on the political side and everything that happens on the official side, on the government side. That wall can never be breached,” she said.
Lightfoot said that “the person who did this understands the extent of the problem and quite frankly is mortified that this happened and that it has drawn attention to themselves and to the campaign, and to me in particular, in this way”.
But the mayor said the public embarrassment his deputy campaign manager suffered was enough and he would not cave in to pressure to fire Crane, who Lightfoot said had “no nefarious intent.”
“The easy political thing to do would be to fire her, throw her body to the hungry hordes. But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do in this case,” the mayor said. “I have a lot of young people working for me. … This is an important teaching moment for them.
Lightfoot has promised to cooperate fully with any investigation triggered by the solicitation. He stressed that there was “zero, zero, zero coordination, coercion or anything else between the campaign and the PSC on this issue” and that “no city resources” were being used.
“I want it to be abundantly clear,” she said.
The CPS Ethics Policy prohibits district employees from forwarding or transmitting political campaign materials. The policy also prohibits school staff from using their positions to engage in political activities or perform political work during school hours.
City College of Chicago spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes said staff who received the campaign emails last August had notified the City College’s ethics department. The administration purged emails from City College accounts and notified the Lightfoot campaign of its ethics policy. “In accordance with City Colleges ethics policy, City Colleges do not coordinate with political campaigns,” Hayes said in a statement.
Crane’s email to select CPS teachers at their work email addresses outraged the Chicago Teachers Union and was universally condemned by Lightfoot’s eight challengers.