Chicago aldermen agreed today to hire an independent inspector general to investigate the City Council, although the job is saddled with restrictions that many argue will render it toothless.
The new position would likely be part-time. Investigations could only be triggered by "signed-and-sworn" statements, precluding any anonymous reports. And the Board of Ethics would have to sign off on any investigations before they began, and would rule if any formal charges were leveled.
Because of these restrictions, Alderman Joe Moore (49th), a strong proponent of ethics reform, ultimately opposed the measure. The Chicago Tribune reports:
"It is probably worse than doing nothing at all," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, who plans to oppose the plan Tuesday at the Rules Committee meeting. "It tries to give the impression that we're doing something, and I think that just breeds public cynicism because it's transparently a paper tiger."
The same Tribune story explains why Moore is reluctant to see the Board of Ethics involved:
The five-member Ethics Board was established in 1987. Since then, it has received five sworn complaints, said Rich Superfine, the board's lawyer. In none of those cases has the board made a finding of wrongdoing against an alderman, he said.
During that same period, more than 20 aldermen have been convicted of crimes. Most recently, former Ald. Isaac Carothers, 29th, was convicted in federal court for accepting bribes in exchange for favorable consideration of a zoning change.
But Moore was one of only four aldermen on the Rules Committee to vote against the measure, with 22 in favor. His opposition made for strange bedfellows: one of the other members to vote "no" was Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) who believes the inspector general shouldn't have any authority whatsoever over the council.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the full City Council "is expected to approve the ordinance on Wednesday." But it also reports the news with some cynicism, saying that the measure "allows aldermen to get newspaper editorial boards off their backs and put the political hot potato behind them with aldermanic elections now ten months away."