WTTW reported that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), slammed “a young staffer” in a scandal involving political outreach emails sent out to teachers. The emails encouraged them to ask students to volunteer for Lightfoot’s reelection campaign. Lightfoot retracted previous statements by the mayor’s campaign, defending the move in “common practice”. However, Lightfoot called the emails “clearly an error”
WTTW reported Wednesday on Lightfoot’s deputy campaign manager sending emails to Chicago Public Schools teachers urging them to vote for the mayor by asking them to volunteer 12 hours per week in return for class credit.
Lightfoot’s campaign sent identical emails to Chicago City Colleges in August. This prompted at least one teacher from the City Colleges to file an ethics complaint. It is not clear if an investigation was initiated.
“As the race heats, we’re looking for ways to enrich our office with what we call our externship program.” This opportunity is your chance to share it with your students. The email stated. “We are simply looking for young people who are curious, hard-working, and enthusiastic to help Mayor Lightfoot win the spring.”
“As a general rule, the district doesn’t coordinate with any political candidates and campaigns.” WTTW was told by a spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools that it has not coordinated with any political candidates or campaigns to date.
Stacy Davis Gates, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, told the news outlet that emails used in the campaign were “unethical.”
Gates stated that union lawyers believe the campaign’s actions violated the city’s government ethics ordinance as well as the ethics policy imposed on Lightfoot.
Mayor’s campaign responds
Lightfoot’s campaign issued a statement following the scandal to defend its actions.
WTTW was told by a spokesperson for the campaign that the emails were intended to “provide young people with an opportunity to engage in our campaign, learn about the importance of civic engagement, and participate in most American of processes.”
Lightfoot claimed that it was a “common practice that has been used in the city, state, and federal campaigns for decades.”
The campaign later amended the statement to say that “all [Lightfoot For Chicago] campaign staff have been reminded of the solid wall which must exist between campaign activities and official activities and that any contacts with any city in Chicago or other sister agencies employees including CPS employees are prohibited, even though publicly available sources are available.” Period.”
On Thursday, the mayor made her first public comments about the emails. She called the actions of the campaigns “clearly an error.”
Lightfoot stated that the outreach to CPS teachers via email was a mistake and should not have occurred.
She blamed a “younger” staffer and claimed that her campaign’s leadership wasn’t aware of the emails. However, the emails identified Lightfoot’s deputy campaign manager as the sender. She said that the “well-intentioned staffer” would not be fired.
Lightfoot stated, “This young lady understands the importance of the issue and is frankly mortified.” She gets it 100%.
Will Fletcher, Chicago Public Schools inspector general, stated that his office has opened an investigation into the matter. He said that they are gathering information to determine if policies were violated.
Lightfoot stated she would “cooperate fully” with any investigation.