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CPS food service director resigns before planned termination

A Chicago Public Schools food service manager accused of accepting gifts, including coveted GreenBay Packers skybox seats, from food vendors has resigned, officials said Wednesday.

Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard told board members Wednesday that he received Louise Essian’s letter of resignation Tuesday, one day before Brizard said he planned to ask board members to fire her.

He called her conduct “unacceptable” and said he was “shocked and saddened” to read about her actions in a report by Schools Inspector General James Sullivan. The system also is “pursuing action against vendors who were the subject of the IG report,” Brizard said.

Esaian had held the $147,000-a-year job since 2007.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had demanded CPS fire Esaian for allegedly accepting free meals, Target gift cards and the skybox tickets, had also ordered CPS lower the boom against the two vendors, who have millions in CPS contracts to provide school breakfasts and lunches.

Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality and Preferred Meals Systems will likely be fined for the alleged transgressions uncovered by CPS Inspector General James Sullivan.

Since 2008, Esaian, two staffers and other CPS employees allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Chartwells and Preferred. And while Sullivan did not accuse Esaian of a crime, he’d recommended Esaian and two other employees be disciplined.

The fate of the other two employees remains uncertain.

For more than three years, Esaian and other employees received gifts that included $25 Target gift cards that were passed out at regular “appreciation luncheons,” the investigation found. And Esaian also regularly attended after-work dinners with company representatives who picked up the check. She was further accused of accepting Green Bay Packers tickets that she used for herself and family members. Cash was never exchanged and it isn’t clear how much the gifts accepted by Esaian were worth.

CPS employees are required to report accepting gifts worth more than $50. Esaian and the other two employees charged with ethics violations never reported receiving gifts, the source said.

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