Providing a reprise of her disjointed and disorganized testimony before the joint City Council committee on police accountability, Acting Independent Police Review Authority Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley held a brief press conference Monday announcing leadership changes, but offering few other details on transparency efforts at the embattled Authority, once again emphasizing her brief time at the helm.
At a podium filled with microphones, Fairley had was forced to step back to read from the prepared statement in her binder. IPRA’s Director of Community Outreach and Engagement, Larry Merritt, allowed just nine minutes of questions from reporters.
Merritt tried his best to maintain control after Fairley’s statement Monday, but reporters talked out of turn, pressing Fairley, in the job for a month, about how she can maintain the Authority’s independence in light of the recent e-mail dump showing former IPRA Chief Scott Ando’s close messaging coordination with the Emanuel administration, what will happen cases from fired IPRA investigator Lorenzo Davis, and what specific moves IPRA would make to increase transparency. Fairley instead attempted to emphasize that policy and procedure changes were still under development, that she’s blocking out her afternoons during the “entire month of January” to review IPRA’s police-involved shooting cases, and said she did not have time to read the email exchanges between her predecessor and officials in the Emanuel administration.
Perhaps the biggest change in policy Fairley announced is that IPRA officials will begin commenting on ongoing investigations. “We are no longer going to standing by a hard and fast rule that we will never discuss the details of an investigation until it’s complete,” Fairley told reporters. “I think that that position is now untenable in the world that we live in.” But she said while IPRA officials “will be on scene,” she stopped short of promising official comments at every crime scene. “I will release information if it’s appropriate,” she said.
Fairley announced restructuring changes previewed over the weekend, “to bring on strong leaders who provide fresh investigative and administrative perspective to IPRA coupled with knowledge and expertise that will aid IPRA in fulfilling its mission.” Two new hires: Chief of Staff Annette Moore, and Chief Investigator Jay Westensee were named Monday, but neither were present.
Moore is Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, and “was instrumental in spearheading diversity outreach efforts and programming,” the IPRA press release says. Moore also worked for more than seven years as an associate at Sidley Austin LLP, where she represented “borrowers, lenders and financial intermediaries in connection with syndicated and structured loans,” according to her LinkedIn.
Westensee is slated to start as Chief Investigator at IPRA in mid-January. According tohis LinkedIn, he has worked at the Office of the Inspector General for more than a decade, where he’s currently Chief Investigator.
Fairley also worked at the OIG’s office as First Deputy and General Counsel, starting in April 2015. Shortly after her appointment on December 6, Fairley also referred theLaquan McDonald administrative investigation to the OIG.
Fairley says she’s also working to find a new First Deputy and General Counsel, fill an existing Attorney vacancy, and add Supervising Attorney and Attorney positions, but acknowledged adding positions and resources will require a bigger budget. IPRA will also establish “a dedicated community outreach team” and will maintain Larry Merritt, a holdover from Ando’s administration, as the Director of Community Outreach and Engagement, “supported by a coordinator who has yet to be hired.”