Chicago School Board Chief's Death Raises Questions Michael Scott was found shot in the head Monday, his body partially submerged in the Chicago River. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, but so far police have not reached that conclusion, and there's widespread disbelief among the mayor and others that Scott would have killed himself.
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Chicago School Board Chief's Death Raises Questions

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Chicago School Board Chief's Death Raises Questions


In Chicago tonight, a memorial for the president of the city's school board. Michael Scott was found dead in the Chicago River earlier this week. Questions about his death have touched some raw nerves, with Mayor Richard Daley lashing out at the medical examiner.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: There's still yellow crime-scene tape near the riverfront where the school board president's body was found. Michael Scott had been shot once in the head. The Cook County medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, but so far Chicago police have not reached that conclusion. And Mayor Richard Daley publicly chastised the medical examiner when she held a rare news conference defending the suicide finding. Since then, Police Superintendent Jody Weis has tried to downplay the rift between the two departments.

Mr. JODY WEIS (Police Superintendent, Chicago): I don't have any complaints or any conflict with the medical examiner's call on this matter. We, of course, will consider that when we make our final determination, but it's really like comparing apples to oranges. We kind of handle investigative modes, and she's dealing heavily with forensics.

CORLEY: The police are awaiting ballistics test results. Scott's gun was found at the scene, and authorities ruled out the possibility of robbery after finding his money clip in the water.

Mr. MICHAEL SCOTT (School Board President, Chicago): I have honest disagreements with a lot of people who are in this room.

CORLEY: That's Michael Scott presiding over his last school board meeting last month. Scott had a high public profile. He had served on the school board three times and this was his second stint as president. Avis LaVelle, a former press secretary for Mayor Daley, once served as school board vice president under Scott. She says he had a real talent for negotiating thorny issues.

Ms. AVIS LAVELLE (Former President Secretary for Mayor Daley): You need people like Michael on the board of education who are able to really listen to people on all sides and help forge a consensus. That is a very special skill.

CORLEY: Scott was one of Mayor Daley's go-to guys: a member of his inner circle who would take on tough civic jobs. In recent months, he'd come under public scrutiny, though, and was subpoenaed as part of an investigation into admission practices at selective-enrollment high schools in Chicago.

He was also a member of the bid committee, which lobbied for the 2016 Olympics, and there were questions about real estate dealings near one of the proposed sites for the games. Scott seemed to brush off those concerns, as did Mayor Daley, who responded angrily this week when he was asked if Scott's death would harm him politically.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Chicago): It's a personal thing. This had nothing to do with my public career. That's an insult to me. Does someone that you love dies change your public career? Think a minute for the sake of people dying? That's an insult. What a silly question to ever ask anybody.

CORLEY: There's widespread disbelief here that a man as successful and prominent as Michael Scott could've taken his own life. Some suspect foul play, and some Chicago clergy and activists are calling for state and federal law officials to get involved. Meantime, the Chicago police continue their investigation, and Avis LaVelle says that's the right thing for them to do.

Ms. LAVELLE: I hope that there is as in-depth an evaluation of this as possible. There are so many of us looking for answers, and I don't think we're satisfied with the answer that we've been given to this point.

CORLEY: Michael Scott was 60 years old. Memorials honoring his life will be held tonight and this weekend, as many here continue to struggle with the uncertainty surrounding his death.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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