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Mell, O’Connor, Schulter Disagree on Creation of New Inspector General

By Hunter Clauss | Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photo by Patrick Houdek.

The three aldermen whose wards make up the Lincoln Square, Northcenter, and Ravenswood area were divided over the creation of a new inspector general?s office that has the authority to investigate members of the City Council and their staffs.

The City Council passed the measure by a vote of 28 to 17, with aldermen Richard Mell (33rd) and Patrick O?Connor (40th) voting in favor of the plan. Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) joined the dissenters, who claimed the plan was watered down and would discourage whistleblowers from stepping forward.

?I voted against this action because I do not believe the creation of a separate watchdog appointed by the City Council with limited powers really meets the call of ethics reform,? said Schulter in a statement. ?Creating additional bureaucracy and making it nearly impossible to investigate Council members isn?t real action.?

In order for the inspector general to jumpstart an investigation, he or she must obtain a sworn and signed statement from the accuser and receive the thumbs up from the Board of Ethics. Rogers Park Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said he?s worried potential whistleblowers will be scared off if they have to sign a statement. Moore also said he was concerned about the selection process of the new inspector general, who will be appointed to a four-year term by the City Council after it considers recommendations from a panel of aldermen. Moore instead wanted an independent body to make the selection.

Mell said the bill might have some “faults,” but he said it was the best option that various members of the City Council could come up with.

The issue of holding the City Council accountable to an outside investigator was first proposed by Mayor Daley, who wanted to expand the powers of the city?s current inspector general, Joe Ferguson, and allow him to monitor aldermen. Daley pitched the idea after former 29th Ward alderman Isaac ?Ike? Carothers pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a developer.

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