What happened to force “long-standing reformer” Forrest Claypool to resign from his post as CEO of Chicago Public Schools? Is this story not only telling of Claypool’s character but that of Mayor Emanuel as well who says Claypool is “still a good guy?” How is that Chicago has elected officials that actively take on clients to fight taxes they impose? CEO and Founder of Project Six, Faisal Khan joins Dan and Amy to discuss.
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Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Jacobson: Wait, we've got the voice part coming, okay ready? Proft: *fake singing* Faisal Khan, Faisal Khan, Faisal Khan...Faisal Khan, let me rock it, let me rock it, Faisal Khan! Let me rock it, that's all I wanna do, Faisal Khan. Faisal Khan, Faisal Khan, let me rock it, Faisal Khan! Jacobson: Faisal Khan! Proft: I'm sure he appreciates that he has theme music now. He's on the show enough, he does good investigative work, that I thought he deserved theme music. Like "I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka!", you should have theme music, walk around City Hall with a boom box playing Faisal...OUR rendition of Chaka Khan, with the Faisal Khan overlay. Jacobson: Have you seen the woozie...the movie "I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka!"? Proft: Oh...it's one of the best movies ever! Jacobson: I LOVE that movie! Oh we actually... Proft: The Wayans Brothers? GENIUS. Absolute genius. Alright, well we gotta talk some serious Chicago politics, I mean to the extent it should be taken seriously, it's only your quality of life, your cost of living in the city, your safety, the quality of your kids schools, it's not like it's important stuff. But, we'll go ahead and talk about it anyway with Faisal Khan, who is the CEO of Project Six, former Legislative Inspector General for the Chicago City Council. Faisal, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Khan: Every time I come on your show, I want that music on. Every SINGLE time. It's the greatest thing I've ever heard. Proft: Yeah, of course. Jacobson: We didn't offend you by singing it, either? Like "Faisal Khan". Have you heard that before? Khan: Are you kidding? Jacobson: Have you heard that before? Khan: That was just AWESOME. Can I tell you, as a kid I didn't realize that Chaka Khan was a woman! Cause when I first heard that song, I thought it was the guy. And it took me a while to figure out who actually sang that song, but hey, you know, great song. Proft: Yeah. Alright. Well, you're welcome! Now, you have to give us something. You have to give us an explanation of what happened to... Jacobson: The choo-choo train guy! Proft: Long...standing...reformer *each word more strained*...Forrest Claypool... Jacobson: Used to be in charge of CTA, then in charge of something else, then CPS. Proft: Yeah, he's the... Jacobson: He's the punchable guy that just moves around! Proft: He's the inside guy that has had every department head job under the Mayors Daley and "Tiny Dancer" over the last 20 years...but he's a reformer! Uh-huh. Well the reformer, as Larry Bloom once said, "In Chicago, the reformers go to jail." This time, the reformer just lost his job, as Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools. But he's still a good guy...and I know that because "Tiny Dancer" said so, and he made a mistake, and it's not that big a deal, and we'll remember him fondly, right Faisal? Khan: Uhh...maybe not as much, Dan. I probably will not remember him that fondly, because what he did was egregious. And he deserved to lose his job for his actions. He lied to law enforcement about his conduct, he wasted taxpayer money on trying to get legal opinions to justify the hiring of a friend, and gave that friend lots of money, including the firm that his friend worked for, lots of money. And he rightfully needed to resign, or be terminated. Jacobson: Well, who was that friend, what was the firm, and what was the work that he was paying him for? Or was there anything, any work? Khan: Basically...no! Basically he decided...Mr. Claypool decided, that he wanted to hire a lawyer named Ronald Marmer. And Mr. Marmer has worked with Mr. Claypool for a long time...except that Mr. Marmer was coming from Jenner and Block. And Jenner and Block is a law firm that's ALSO hired by CPS to do legal work for them. And so, Mr. Marmer was in charge of ordering...Jenner and Block, giving them instructions and supervising them, and telling them what to do. Here's the twist: Jenner and Block is still PAYING Mr. Marmer to the tune of $200,000 in severance money. Jacobson: Ahhh. Definitely double dipping. Proft: Yeah, sure! Multiple revenue streams, what's the big deal? Khan: It's just basically money being passed around between all of them! And that would be what you and I...what most people would identify as a conflict of interest. Jacobson: Well, isn't a CRIME, though? I mean, can they get him on something like... Khan: Well they'd have to dig a little deeper into that, Amy. But it's worthy of a conversation, certainly. But at the very least, AT THE VERY LEAST, that agreement should have never taken place, because it's a clear conflict of interest, and six out of seven lawyers said so, to Mr. Claypool, who remained undeterred, and finally found a seventh lawyer who said "No, that should be okay, go ahead and do that!" That's not accurate. Proft: Yeah, that appointed School Board, "Tiny Dancer"'s appointees to the Chicago School Board, they're on the stick as usual, just like they were with Barbara Byrd-Bennett, huh? Khan: Yeah, well...Barbara Byrd-Bennett's certainly one. And so on top of that, he goes ahead and hires Mr. Marmer, and when the Inspector General for CPS finds out about it, and has a problem with it, and brings Mr. Claypool in for a conversation, Mr. Claypool lies. Mr. Claypool lies, denies certain things, says he didn't do, adjusts invoices, spends taxpayer dollars, and the IG calls him out on it. And Mr. Claypool eventually admits that he engaged in wrongdoing. And instead of firing him immediately, because he's *audio drops* of all taxpayers and individuals, the mayor stands beside him, and says "We should think highly of Mr. Claypool because he's a stand-up guy for admitting his mistake." Jacobson: But he's NOT a stand-up guy! And you know he's gonna land somewhere else, so what other...I mean, Water Reclamation District or...trying to think of what job he's gonna get next. Khan: I mean, the reality is the story's not any more about Forrest Claypool than it is Rahm Emanuel. We've had a mayor who campaigned hard about transparency, and if you look at his career now in City Hall, has acted in every way BUT any transparent form. We've had...he's fought lawsuit after lawsuit about transparency, he used private email to keep business away from taxpayers so they don't know what's going on, he's engaged in shady deals we know nothing about, and now he's standing by people who clearly should not have city employment. Two of his former executives have ended up in jail, including Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and Amer Ahmad, his former Comptroller. We really need to have a hard look at this, and decide if we have a mayor acting in taxpayer interest or not. Proft: Yeah. Well that sounds like the resume for a third term to me. Can't wait for 2019! Let me ask you this Faisal, in respect to...or moving on to one of the Cornish Democrats in charge of the state, Mike Madigan. This four-part series on the property tax system in Cook County that Jason Grotto did in the Chicago Tribune, which is very good, and now the suits that have been filed in Cook County against Assessor Joe Berrios, which has four generations of Berrios's, at least, on the Cook County payroll. The numbers are staggering, and you want to talk about inherent conflicts of interest. So these property tax appeals for firms like Madigan/Getzendanner...that's Mike Madigan...from 2011 to 2016, according to Grotto's research, total value...total initial value appealed of all their clients...$8.6 BILLION. Reductions granted by the Assessor: $1.7 BILLION. You know what the fees are on those kind of reductions, over the course of five years? You're talking about...I don't know...upwards of half a billion dollars in legal fees in five years with the reductions Madigan and Getzendanner were able to get their clients. And just a couple rungs down the ladder is Klafter and Burke...as in Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke, longtime Alderman on the City Council, $4.7 billion in initial total value appealed, $865 million in reductions granted by the Assessor. These guys who directly or indirectly write and influence property tax...the property tax classification system, the property tax laws in this state, and then are...are then part of this scam to enrich themselves on the spread. This seems to me a ripe area for all kinds of additional investigation building off Jason Grotto's, because what happens with this relief that is...is obtained by the clouted, is it's passed on as burdens to the unclouted. Khan: It is absolutely ripe for investigation. Here's...here's....here's my two cents on this, Dan and Amy. Simply that...how do we have state officials and local officials working against the fiduciary interest of the city? They have a responsibility as an elected official in furtherance of city interests, and by actively taking on clients to fight taxes here in the city of Chicago, which necessarily...I don't have a problem with fighting taxes! But this idea that they are...while at one hand working for government and collecting a salary from taxpayers, then at the same time working for private clients who are working actively against the government, it's an inherent conflict of interest. And how this has been going on for so long is mind blowing. It makes just absolutely no sense. You've got both sides, you're working both sides at this point, and the only people getting cheated are the people in the middle like you, me, when we see our property taxes go up every year, taxes to make up for these other reductions that are taking place. Proft: And so, on that topic, one more, since this was a previous investigation you did that we discussed with you. Proco Joe Moreno, "Proco Grope-oh" Joe Moreno... Jacobson: He wants to be in Congress! He wants to go to Washington DC now! Proft: Yeah, he's trying to level up to backfill "El Gallito"'s Congressional seat...that would be one way to SORT OF get rid of him, I guess, just kick him upstairs. What do you think? Khan: Do we have to kick him upstairs? Is there another direction we can kick him? Proft: Could just kick him OUT. Khan: Yeah, that's a better direction! Look, a lot of good people have come out for Mr. Gutierrez's seat, so that's going to be an interesting election next year. Just...just so you know, Mr. Straus' lawsuit against the city has NOT been dismissed, like Mr. Moreno's claimed it would be. And we're gonna end up footing that bill too, for Mr. Moreno's egregious actions. So, as much as I'd like him out of the city, I'm not sure the state...or Federal...jurisdiction would be my first choice of where to send him. Proft: Yeah, but here's the...Federal jurisdiction? Maybe the PENAL SYSTEM. I mean, this...this...this story is, just to refresh people's recollection, him shaking down the owner of a building where the Double Door was...the Double Door kicked out as a tenant because they weren't paying their rent, $100,000 in arrears. And Moreno went to them and said "You're gonna put the Double Door in there, and you're only going to charge them this amount," because the Double Door owners are friends of his. And now this guy has this pending suit against the city, but is there any more investigation, particularly of a law enforcement nature, going into that obvious shakedown, part of which was caught on video? Khan: That's a great question, Dan, and I'm not privy to what the FBI or the State's Attorney's office is looking at. But the reality is, this isn't a one-time occurrence. You know, many Aldermen are involved in this type of conduct, and I'm hoping that authorities are looking at this stuff, because it's clearly an abuse of Aldermanic privilege and title, and it...it wasn't just that Double Door were FRIENDS of Joe Moreno, they raised MONEY for Joe Moreno. They were fundraisers for him, so this is a pure financial deal for both sides, except for Mr. Straus like you noted, who was owed a hundred grand. Now, can you imagine ANY landlord who can go about and rent free to people, you know, and be owed a hundred thousand dollars? That's just not realistic, and so that...of all the players in this, he's the one that gets the short end of the stick, and has to fight back. Jacobson: And that's so weird, because I saw Proco Joe the other day, and he didn't seem bothered at all by this. He said "No, I did the right thing. Those are my friends, I gotta stick up for my buddies." And I said "Just because they're your buddies doesn't mean they can escape out of paying the RENT!" Proft: No, the laws... Jacobson: But he's under this...he lives in a different stratosphere, a different world from normal people. Proft: No he doesn't. He lives in the feudal system that's Chicago. And in the feudal system, if you're friends with a Lord, the laws don't apply. That's how it works. Isn't that right, Faisal? Khan: *sounding defeated* Unfortunately, Dan. It's just a culture, we're not able to shake, still. And we have to keep fighting and keep pushing back. Proft: He is former Legislative Inspector General for the Chicago City Council...there's a thankless job...the CEO of Project Six, doing all these independent investigations, like the ones we've described...Faisal Khan, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Khan: Good talking to you guys, as always. Thanks.