Embattled Chicago schools chief quits amid ethics probe
CHICAGO (AP) — The head of Chicago’s public schools system on Friday stepped down from his job amid allegations by the system’s inspector general that he engaged in a “full-blown cover-up” to block an ethics investigation.
Forrest Claypool, who was appointed as CEO of the nation’s third-largest school district more than two years ago as the system was working to recover from a bribery scandal, announced his resignation at a news conference. He apologized but didn’t take questions.
“I hope that when this chapter of my career is written, people will say even good men can make stupid mistakes,” said Claypool, who stood with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close friend who appointed him as schools chief.
The resignation that is effective Dec. 31 follows a blistering 103-page report in which Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler said that Claypool “repeatedly lied” during an investigation when he denied that he had asked an attorney to alter a bill for legal advice on an ethics issue.
“At every turn in this matter, Claypool kept making matters worse,” Schuler wrote. “And it appears that his decisions were driven by a clear desire to keep information harmful to this narrative from the Board (of Education), the OIG (Office of Inspector General) and the public.”
As late as Thursday, Emanuel kept up his defense of Claypool and told reporters at City Hall that Claypool had publicly owned up to his mistakes. At the news conference, Emanuel suggested that Claypool should be judged by his career in public service and not just by how his time at CPS came to an end.
“He can walk out with his head held high,” Emanuel said, before also leaving the press conference without answering questions.
Still, the resignation was a stunning end to the tenure of a close confidant of Emanuel, who once served as the mayor’s chief of staff and was brought on by the mayor to restore stability in the school district after a scandal that prompted former public schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett to plead guilty to federal corruption charges. She is now in prison.