Chicago Mayor’s Top Aides Took Days Off Leading Into Violent Fourth of July Weekend Despite ‘All Hands on Deck’ Strategy

By Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
July 9, 2021 Updated: July 9, 2021

By Gregory Pratt
From Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO—Leading up to the summer months when Chicago historically sees its highest levels of violence, Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed to take an “all hands on deck” approach to stopping the city’s shootings.

But even as the city canceled days off for Chicago cops and forced them to work 12 hour days, two of the mayor’s top aides took time off leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, where at least 108 people were shot, 17 fatally.

Some aldermen criticized the absences.

Lightfoot Chief of Staff Sybil Madison was out of the office on Thursday and Friday, Madison told city workers in an email.

Madison, who became chief of staff just last month after serving as the mayor’s deputy for education and human services, said Lightfoot’s new chief operating officer, Paul Goodrich, would be in charge while she’s out.

Goodrich joined the mayor’s office last month after a career largely spent in the private sector.

Lightfoot’s deputy mayor for public safety, John O’Malley, was also out for most of last week, sources told the Tribune.

The absences came as city officials prepared for the Fourth of July holiday, which is often among the city’s bloodiest. It also came as Lightfoot and police Superintendent David Brown complained that aldermen called Brown to a special City Council meeting to discuss violence, saying it took away valuable time from preparing for the weekend.

In response to questions about the absences, Lightfoot’s press office released a statement saying “working in the Mayor’s Office is a 24/7, 365 job, and members of the Mayor’s senior staff are constantly connected.”

“Those responsible for on-the-ground operations continued to execute over the holiday weekend, and the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff were fully engaged every day,” the statement said.

Whether it matters that top City Hall aides took time off leading up to the holiday is, perhaps, debatable.

But some aldermen expressed criticism of the absences. South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, a frequent Lightfoot critic, said it’s “poor leadership” for people to be out of the office “when we need them the most.”

He also took aim at the mayor’s office for having criticized the special City Council meeting on violence.

“We were told the meeting we had last week was a waste of time but your people are out of the office,” Beale said.

Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez also criticized the mayor’s staff members, saying it shows city leadership is “disconnected.”

“We’ve heard about the ‘whole of government’ approach (to dealing with violence) for weeks now,” Lopez said. “But I guess that doesn’t apply to the people responsible for actually creating the policies.”

Early in her first term, Lightfoot issued an edict banning top police leaders from taking time off during the summer months, saying they need to set an example for rank-and-file officers.

It also comes as city police leaders canceled days off for all Chicago cops over the weekend, forcing them to work 12 hour days in an effort to saturate the streets.

At least 108 people were shot in Chicago over the long Independence Day weekend, among them two police officers; 5- and 6-year-old girls; and a group of six people early Monday in the Washington Park neighborhood—where a man was killed hours later in an unrelated shooting.

Two days later, a Chicago officer and two federal law enforcement agents were injured by gunfire while working undercover on the Far South Side, according to police.

Brown said on Monday that too many criminal defendants are out on bail and electronic monitoring for serious offenses, even murders.

Court officials and crime experts have pushed back on that narrative with data that suggests issues in the bond system are not a root cause of the problem.

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Tribune News Service
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