CHICAGO — A family renting Rahm Emanuel's Chicago home wanted $100,000 to move out when the former White House chief of staff decided to come back to run for the city's mayor, a friend of Emanuel testified Thursday during a hearing on residency challenges to his candidacy.
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners hearing ended Thursday night with closing arguments after nearly 30 hours of testimony spanning three days. A hearing officer is expected to decide before next Thursday's meeting whether Emanuel's name should be listed on the ballot.
Residency has taken center stage in Emanuel's bid to get on the Feb. 22 ballot. Some two dozen opponents say he doesn't have a legal right to run because he doesn't meet the one-year residency requirement. Emanuel lived for nearly two years in Washington working for Obama.
Among the highlights Thursday was testimony from Paul Levy, a friend who has advised Emanuel on real estate matters. Levy said he reached out to businessman Rob Halpin and his family about breaking their lease early so Emanuel could move back into his home after he quit working for President Barack Obama in October.
Levy said he told Halpin that Emanuel was willing to offer them some compensation to move out before their lease ended in June because he recognized it would be an inconvenience.
Halpin, Levy said, told him he would think about it. When he didn't hear from Halpin, Levy said he sent an e-mail thanking the family for considering the offer even though it seemed clear they wouldn't be leaving. Not long after that, Levy said he heard from Halpin's lawyer.
"He suggested to me that Mr. Halpin was looking for $100,000 to leave the house early," Levy said.
Emanuel called that ridiculous and discussed offering the Halpins $5,000 per month for the time left on their lease. The Halpins rejected that offer through their lawyer, Levy said.
Halpin made headlines when he and and his family refused to move out of Emanuel's home and then filed paperwork to run against Emanuel in the crowded race to replace Mayor Richard Daley, only to withdraw a short time later.
Another witness, Dana Douglas, showed photographs she said she took earlier Thursday of possessions stored in a crawl space in Emanuel's Chicago home. They showed several boxes, along with clothing, children's toys, and even a New York Times newspaper box like those found on street corners containing a copy of the paper from the day Obama was inaugurated.
Douglas was called after Lori Halpin testified that she did not see all the boxes of personal items that Emanuel said his family had left behind in a crawl space, acknowledging that there were two areas of the house she hadn't accessed.
Emanuel has lived elsewhere in Chicago since moving back. His wife and their three children plan to remain in Washington until the school year ends.
During closing arguments, attorney Andrew Finko said Emanuel showed no signs that he was going to move back to Chicago until Mayor Richard Daley announced in September he would not seek a seventh term. He said many of the things Emanuel did to show he intended on returning to Chicago were "manufactured" after Daley's announcement to "establish the appearance of residency."
But most of the people who were not lawyers focused on what they say is the only issue: fairness. In sometimes eloquent arguments, they said that Emanuel is being given special consideration because of his stature.
"Do you believe passionately that all people are equal and should be held to the same standards as everybody else?" William J. Kelly asked the hearing officer.
Others were a bit more plainspoken, including Gary Pozniak, who called some of Emanuel's testimony "a bunch of crap."