City Council votes to allow IG more authority to investigate aldermen

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The Chicago City Council made history Wednesday passing an ordinance giving Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the right to investigate council members and their staff. (WLS)

The Chicago City Council made history Wednesday passing an ordinance giving Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the right to investigate council members and their staff.

But some aldermen say the ordinance doesn't go far enough. They say scare tactics were used to convince some of their colleagues to vote for a watered-down version of the ordinance. Despite that, council members welcome some oversight, especially since it took so long to get something passed.

For years, Chicago's aldermen have chosen to exempt themselves from oversight by the inspector general. But that changed when the City Council voted to allow Ferguson the power to conduct ethical and criminal investigations against council members.

"We made a big stride today, but we could have done so much better," said Ald. Michelle Smith, 43rd Ward.

Smith sponsored the original ordinance, one that gives City Hall's watchdog oversight over aldermen and the committees they run. But the powerful finance committee chairman Ald. Ed Burke amended the ordinance by stripping Ferguson's power over the committees and programs, including the expensive workmen's comp program that Burke controls.

"So the people who want an unamended ordinance are writing a blank check," said Ald. Will Burns, 4th Ward.

Fearing the original ordinance gives the inspector general too much oversight, Burns defended the revised version, while others tried to convince council members Burke's version is too watered down.

"Our constituents are looking for transparency; they want to know this body is not special," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.

In a council showdown and close vote, aldermen voted to vote on Burke's watered down measure. It passed.

The mayor says the revised ordinance is better than nothing. He would not say which version he supported.

Smith says the watered down ordinance will only fuel taxpayers lack of trust in City Hall.
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