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City Hires "Mayoral Troubleshooter" for Schools

By Kevin Robinson in News on Nov 6, 2009 3:20PM

2009_11_cps.gif With a massive budget deficit looming, property taxes on the rise, and the mayor talking about more furloughs and service cuts, the Chicago Public Schools have still found over $150,000 to hire a city hall insider to handle "forging partnerships with the business community to support school programs," the Sun-Times is reporting. Better yet, the hire is Barbara Lumpkin, who has served as Daley's city comptroller, budget director and city treasurer, and who was involved in several city hall scandals during her previous tenure.

In 2005, her name turned up on city documents as one of four officials who signed off on some of the 14 pay raises over eight years -- three within two months -- granted to former gang member-turned convicted Hired Truck czar Angelo Torres.

At the time, Lumpkin called those sign-offs "routine for the role that I served in." She said she did not recall having discussions about Torres with Victor Reyes, the Hispanic Democratic Organization chieftain who ran the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the time.

That wasn't the only controversy to cloud Lumpkin's City Hall tenure.

During a brief stint as city treasurer -- before Santos was released from prison and re-claimed the office only to turn around and plead guilty -- Lumpkin downplayed as "routine" $445.6 million in transaction errors that cost a top employee his job and deprived taxpayers of $102,428 in interest and penalties.

Meanwhile, schools chief Ron Huberman has said that increasing class size, laying off teachers and cutting benefits are all possible options for closing a budget gap in the schools that could approach $1 billion. Nevertheless, CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond defended the move to hire Lumpkin. "We need to continue to do outreach to major corporations. We cannot function without fulfilling those responsibilities. We have high-level jobs like this that we always intended to fill," she told the Sun-Times.