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Anjanette Young raid: Did Lightfoot agreed to give ousted attorney more city work? – Chicago Tribune

Mayor Lori Lightfoot forced her top attorney’s resignation late last year amid an uproar over her administration’s handling of the wrongful police raid on Anjanette Young’s home. Now Lightfoot and the attorney are in a heated dispute over whether she agreed later to give him city business, records obtained by the Tribune show.

In short: He claims the Lightfoot administration reached out to give him city business at his new law firm, without objection from the mayor. She claims that isn’t true.

“The Mayor did not believe then, now or in the future it’s appropriate for Mark Flessner to get any work from the City of Chicago,” Lightfoot spokesman Cesar Rodriguez said in a statement. “At no time has she ever thought or articulated that he should get any City work and that opinion has not changed.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, center, confers with Mark Flessner, who was then the city's top attorney, in 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, center, confers with Mark Flessner, who was then the city’s top attorney, in 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

But Flessner, who asked the city ethics board in March for an opinion on whether he could do the work and told the board that Lightfoot had no objection, said Lightfoot is “rewriting history.”

“Why would I have sought the ethics opinion, if the Mayor had said that I would not be hired?” Flessner told the Tribune in an email. “She is not being truthful.”

About three months after Lightfoot requested his resignation, Flessner asked the Chicago Board of Ethics on March 29 for an advisory opinion on whether he could accept city cases, according to an email released in response to an open records request.

Flessner said the Department of Law asked him whether he could take on the work, according to the Board of Ethics’ opinion.

Lightfoot “has no objection,” Flessner added, according to the board.

After receiving the opinion from the city’s ethics chief, Steve Berlin, at 9:52 a.m. on April 13, Flessner forwarded the opinion to Lightfoot. The mayor then forwarded it to her then-chief of staff, Maurice Classen, and interim corporation counsel Celia Meza seven minutes later, writing only, “FYI.”

Earlier this month, however, Lightfoot sent a letter to the Board of Ethics saying she “was recently made aware” of Flessner’s statement that she had no objections to him receiving city work.

“Please be advised that I made no such comment to Mr. Flessner,” Lightfoot wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 17. “I have never indicated to him that I would approve of his engagement as outside counsel to the city on any matter.”

Five days later, Lightfoot’s administration released the April emails to the Tribune in response to a public records request. The mayor’s office declined to comment when asked why she didn’t deny Flessner’s claim in April, when she first received the ethics opinion.

Flessner’s message to the Board of Ethics asked whether he could represent the city in administrative or judicial proceedings. The board said he could, according to the opinion sent to Flessner and Lightfoot.

City lawyers regularly farm out work to outside counsel, as the Law Department is typically overworked.

In emailed responses to Tribune questions, Flessner said he received phone calls from several people at the Department of Law asking if he could take cases, though he declined to name them.

“I asked the Mayor, and she originally said yes, but she has since changed her mind and is now denying that she agreed to this,” Flessner wrote.

Flessner said he discussed the matter with Lightfoot in January after she asked him to meet at a park. They sat in his car because it was too cold to be outside and discussed the issue, Flessner said.

On another occasion, Flessner said he asked Lightfoot “when the work would be coming” and she “responded that it was too soon.”

“I don’t know what she meant by ‘too soon,’” Flessner said, in response to a follow-up question. “Ask her.”

Lightfoot’s office did not specifically address a question about the alleged exchanges. The mayor asked for Flessner’s resignation to show she was serious about addressing the Young case. Hiring him back months later would have likely raised questions from critics about accountability over the case, which has been a major scandal for Lightfoot since CBS 2 aired disturbing footage last December of an errant raid on Young’s home where officers handcuffed her while she was naked.

Video footage from the raid became national news in large part because Lightfoot lawyers sought an order to prevent CBS 2 from airing the footage and requested sanctions against the plaintiff, Young, for sharing video of the raid with the media. Lightfoot lawyers later said they only wanted sanctions against Young’s lawyer but dropped the request altogether as the scandal spiraled.

In handling Young’s case, Lightfoot has faced a challenging political and legal dynamic. She wants to show empathy toward Young while also overseeing a Law Department charged with mounting a defense in a case that could cost the city millions of dollars.

While Lightfoot personally apologized to Young for the errant raid and has vowed to resolve her lawsuit against the city, a Tribune report earlier this year noted her administration has continued to play hardball in defending the Police Department’s actions even after Flessner was pushed out.

It’s a pattern that began with the Lightfoot administration’s decision to deny Young’s request for access to police footage from the wrongful 2019 raid on her Near West Side home and continued earlier this year with the mayor’s lawyers moving to dismiss Young’s case.

Lightfoot lawyers argued in December that they withheld the video from Young because they believed it was “an attempt to provide the media with the body worn camera to paint an inaccurate picture of what happened during the subject search warrant.”

Legal documents filed by the city in June show Lightfoot officials have downplayed one of the more horrifying elements of the bungled raid, how long Young was left exposed as officers swarmed her home while acting on a bad tip about a felon with a gun.

The city’s motion to dismiss said Young was “escorted to her bedroom to get fully dressed” about 10 minutes after officers determined their target wasn’t present.

“Though (police) attempted to cover her with a nearby blanket seconds after handcuffing her, the blanket did not stay fully closed in front,” city lawyers noted.


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