Unlike every other city department and elected Chicago official, Chicago aldermen and their staffs aren’t ever subject to internal investigations into malfeasance, corruption, and waste. That’s because the city council exempted itself from the Inspector General’s purview two decades ago out of fear that rivals might sick the IG on each other for political gain.
That opposition to any kind of internal scrutiny still persists in certain quarters. Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), for instance, told the Tribune yesterday that expanding the IG’s jurisdiction to include the city council would only invite trouble: “The mayor could use the IG to influence legislation."
Undeterred by such fearmongering, several aldermen unveiled an ordinance today that would allow the IG to dig into corruption and wrongdoing in their own offices.
Outside of council chambers this morning, chief sponsor Joe Moore (49th ward) explained that, under the proposed legislation, the days of the mayor “using” the IG would be over. Indeed, the ordinance would create a nominating panel with “irrefutable integrity” -- including Chicago’s U.S. attorney and lead FBI agent, the Cook County state’s attorney, the Better Government Association, and the chief justices of the Illinois Supreme Court and Cook County Circuit Court -- to come up with a shortlist of IG candidates from which the mayor could choose. The City Council would then have to confirm his pick.
“If you take the IG [nomination] out of the mayor’s hands, they don’t have an argument anymore,” Moore told us, referring to opponents of the ordinance. “Except that they don’t want to be investigated.”
Watch a snipped from the press conference below:
When asked what kind of support he’s lined up so far, Moore responded, “Right now, I’m batting 1,000.” Mind you, only 11 alderman have lent their signature to date, but Moore has a full week to lobby for more backing before introducing the ordinance at next Wednesday’s council meeting.
Meanwhile, Stone made it clear this morning that he’s not going to sign on any time soon. Without a word, he flashed a thumbs down and a smirk before hopping into an elevator.
“No doubt there will be some of the old guard on the council who will try and bury it when it goes to the Rules Committee,” Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) -- a supporter of the oridnance -- told us, referring to the committee headed by longtime reform opponent Dick Mell (33rd Ward).
But pointing to the backdrop of scandal -- a patronage trial is underway, former-Ald. Arenda Troutman is headed to jail, and the IG recently revealed that city workers were paid $14 million to loaf -- supporters say there’s plenty of evidence that the additional oversight will pay for itself.
UPDATE: Below is a press release sent out by Manny Flores expressing his support for the ordinance and listing the other council members backing the measure: Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward), Rick Munoz (22nd Ward), Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), and Sandi Jackson (7th Ward):