CHICAGO (CBS) — Just hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hoped to “meet soon” with Anjanette Young, the social worker who was handcuffed while naked when Chicago police officers wrongly raided her home last year, Young’s attorney canceled plans for a private meeting and public forum, accusing the mayor of “playing politics.”
On Sunday, Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, sent a letter to Lightfoot, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, and seven aldermen, proposing a private meeting with the mayor at Young’s church, Progressive Baptist in Armour Square, on Wednesday morning, followed by a public forum with the mayor, the aldermen, and Brown. Saulter later invited all 50 aldermen to attend the public forum.
Monday afternoon, Lightfoot said her office was still working out the details, but said she hoped to “meet soon” with Young.
“I am anxious to meet directly with Ms. Young, and I’m hoping that the details can be worked out so that will happen,” Lightfoot said.
However, Saulter’s office later announced plans for the private meeting and public forum on Wednesday have been cancelled.
Lightfoot had expressed concerns about the invitation for a public forum with all 50 aldermen, pointing not only to the pandemic, but possible issues with the state’s Open Meetings Act.
“We have very specific guidance that’s been out now for several months about the size of gatherings. Fifty people-plus in a setting would I think violate the public health guidance that we’ve given out,” she said.
Saulter’s invitation for the meeting proposed a strict mask mandate for the public forum, except for when someone is speaking at the church podium, as well as requiring people to stay at least 10 feet apart from each other.
Aside from the COVID-19 concerns, Lightfoot said holding a public forum with all 50 members of the City Council raises some legal issues, such as whether such a gathering would violate the Open Meetings Act, and whether it could present a possible conflict of interests for aldermen.
According to the state’s Open Meetings Act, any gathering of at least 14 aldermen to discuss city business would be considered an official meeting, and would require the city to provide advance notice, an agenda, and an opportunity for public comment.
In a statement later Monday afternoon, Saulter dismissed the mayor’s concerns about the Open Meetings Act as “legally invalid given the City Council nor the Office of the Mayor attempted to convene the entire City Council.”
Hours after the mayor’s press conference on Monday, Saulter’s office confirmed the meetings planned for Wednesday have been canceled. Saulter said Acting Corporation Counsel Celia Meza told him the mayor had accepted the invitation for a private meeting, but declined to participate in the public forum.
“Ms. Meza further advised the Mayor would instead speak to the press at 12:00 p.m. while Ms. Young and the Aldermen were engaged in the public forum at the same time, addressing the issues and doing the hard work of moving towards Transparency and Accountability for this incident and many others,” Saulter’s law firm said in a press release. “To be clear, this means that the Mayor declined Ms. Young’s request to meet with her in the manner that Ms. Young had requested—a manner that was best for her, her healing and Transparency.”
A spokeswoman for Saulter said he will now proceed with plans to file a lawsuit against the city over the wrong raid of Young’s home.
“For Ms. Young, the Mayor’s apologies without action ring hollow and fall on deaf ears,” Saulter’s law firm said in a statement. “The Mayor’s apology, more than a year after she found out about Ms. Young’s treatment at the hands of the Chicago Police Department (by her own admission) is not justice. Mr. Saulter will proceed with the lawsuit against the City and truly appreciates the many Aldermen who were willing to attend this upcoming Wednesday and try to begin the healing process.”
In a separate email to the mayor, Meza, and all 50 alderman, Saulter accused the mayor of “playing politics.”
“This was an opportunity for Transparency. The Mayor seems intent on playing politics, and that’s fine,” Saulter wrote in his email, which was obtained anonymously by CBS 2.
Lightfoot had expressed concerns about the possibility of a lawsuit when discussing the potential for aldermen meeting with Young in a public forum, saying such a meeting could present legal issues “whether or not aldermen would be close to breaching their fiduciary responsibilities, because we presume that this will be a topic that they may have to weigh in on later.”
In a letter from the city’s Law Department, Meza cautioned aldermen that although Young does not have an active lawsuit against the city, city attorneys “cannot rule out the possibility of litigation in the near future” and warning that if they were to meet with Young to discuss her case, they could later be subpoenaed as witnesses if Young files a lawsuit.
“Any statements that an alderman makes during such a meeting could place such alderman in either a direct or perceived conflict, which could then be used to attempt to impose liability to the City. Such an outcome would place the alderman, who by virtue of his or her office has a fiduciary duty to the City, in an untenable position,” Meza wrote.
Saulter said, while he understands those concerns Meza expressed to aldermen, he said, “many Aldermen have already made their opinions well known regarding what happened to Ms. Young and how it should not have happened.”
It’s unclear how many aldermen had planned to attend the proposed public forum. Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), one of the mayor’s most outspoken critics on the City Council, said Sunday he and several of his colleagues planned to attend.
“I think it’s also important that we hear directly from her [Young], that the mayor hear directly from her so that we don’t make these mistakes again, whether it’s with the police or whether it’s with how future mayors handle situations like this,” Lopez said. “We can’t continue to go back to the same coverup playbook simply because it’s damaging to the city of Chicago.”
Young was a victim of a botched raid conducted by Chicago police, which was recorded in February of 2019. Lightfoot had criticized the city’s Law Department for seeking to block CBS 2 from airing video footage of the wrong raid of Young’s home. A federal judge denied that request, and Lightfoot has since said that it was a mistake, though she has denied knowing about the request beforehand.
Activists held a march for Young Sunday morning outside Chicago Police Headquarters calling for change. Those in attendance included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, and Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin.
In addition to investigations by the city, there have been calls for congressional hearings.
The city’s Law Department dropped a motion seeking sanctions against the attorney for Young, after CBS 2 obtained video of a police raid in which Young was handcuffed naked as police wrongly searched her home. Lightfoot called the effort by the Law Department to seek sanctions against Young’s attorney “a colossal mistake.” The mayor has said, had she been advised of the move beforehand, she never would have allowed the Law Department to seek sanctions.
Lightfoot has asked former federal judge Ann Claire Williams to launch an outside investigation of the wrong raid of Anjanette Young’s home and the city’s handling of the fallout. In a letter to aldermen, Lightfoot said the city must “ensure what Ms. Young experienced never happens again.” The mayor said Williams and her law firm, Jones Day, have agreed to handle the investigation for no cost to the city.
At a joint City Council hearing last week, Brown announced several CPD policy changes to improve upon the search warrant process that the CBS 2 Investigators have poked holes in for years.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, a deputy chief will now have to sign off on a search warrant and it will be mandatory for a lieutenant to be on scene during raids. It was a sergeant at Young’s home that night in February 2019.
The superintendent acknowledged even with some of the search warrant procedures changed last year, there was no accountability for getting it wrong.
In August, months before the Young raid came to light, a group of attorneys instrumental in the Chicago Police consent decree sent a scathing 14-page letter to the city demanding an overhaul of the departments search warrant policy – calling it unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, all of the officers involved in the raid were placed on desk duty, pending the conclusion of a Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigation into the incident. Lightfoot has criticized COPA for taking so long with the probe, and has called on the agency to wrap up its investigation soon.
Three members of the Law Department also are out of their jobs. Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner resigned Sunday at Lightfoot’s request. Deputy Corporation Counsel Caryn Jacobs and Law Department Director of Public Affairs Kathleen Fieweger also “are no longer employed with the City” the mayor’s office confirmed Monday evening.
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