CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pick to be the city's top lawyer got the green light from a City Council committee Tuesday, but not before he faced tough questions on how he would represent the city in police misconduct lawsuits.
Edward Siskel, who worked for former President Barack Obama before joining the Washington, D.C. law firm WilmerHale, is the mayor's pick to replace Stephen Patton, who served as the city corporation counsel since 2011.
Siskel, 44, began his new job on an interim basis Feb. 10. If confirmed as expected by the full City Council Wednesday, he will earn $173,664 a year.
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) was one of several aldermen who pointedly asked Siskel whom he would represent as the city's top lawyer — and how he would resolve conflicts between the mayor's office, the council and city departments.
Siskel vowed to lead the city's law department with "integrity and fairness."
After the committee hearing, Siskel told reporters he would work to reform the Chicago Police Department in the wake of a report by the U.S. Department of Justice that found officers routinely violated the civil rights of Chicagoans by using excessive force.
However, Siskel did not answer questions about whether the city needed a legally binding agreement — known as a consent decree — to ensure that reforms are implemented under the authority of a federal judge.
The mayor has repeatedly pledged to implement the reforms suggested by the Justice Department, with or without a consent decree. Those discussions were set to start this week, Emanuel said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed skepticism about whether consent decrees are useful or effective.
Siskel also pledged to ensure that city lawyers meet all of their obligations in turning over evidence to plaintiffs against the city.
A federal judge ruled in January 2016 that an attorney for the city intentionally concealed evidence during the civil trial of two officers who shot and killed a man in 2011 during a traffic stop.
The judge overturned a jury verdict that cleared the officers of wrongdoing, and harshly criticized the city for concealing evidence from the the victim's family.
In December, the City Council agreed to pay $2.34 million to settle the case.
The case prompted city officials to hire former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to conduct an independent investigation of whether the Patton-led Law Department routinely concealed evidence or engaged in misconduct.
Webb's 5 ½-month investigation said the incident in the Pinex case was unique and was not part of a larger culture of wrongdoing. However, the report made 50 recommendations in how to improve the division's operations.
Siskel — a nephew of the late Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel — clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens before working as deputy White House counsel and as an associate deputy attorney general in the Obama administration.