11/04/2010 02:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Chicago Aldermen Prepare To Hire Their Own Inspector General

The Chicago City Council is moving forward on hiring an inspector general to police its own members, in a process that some describe as reform and others feel is watered-down political window dressing.

In May of this year, the Council approved a measure to hire an inspector with the power to investigate its 50 aldermen and their employees. Six months later, it has now established a commission to choose that inspector.

"It could have been done faster," Ald. Dick Mell told the Chicago Tribune. "But we wanted to get the right mix, and we think we have that now."

The five-member panel will recommend three finalists to the City Council's Rules Committee.

Mayor Daley had originally pressed to give the city's Inspector General power to investigate aldermen as well as the mayor's office. Fearing that the mayor could use the IG as a weapon against dissenting aldermen, the City Council decided to create a separate office to investigate its own members.

But several provisions leave reform advocates worried that this new position won't have any real authority.

For one, the city's Board of Ethics must trigger any investigation and will issue final findings of guilt or innocence. In its 23-year existence, the Board of Ethics has not taken action against a single alderman; in that time, dozens of aldermen have gone to prison.

Another disconcerting fact: investigations must be triggered by "signed and sworn" statements, which many fear will keep whistleblowers from speaking out for fear of retribution.

Alderman Joe Moore called the measure a "toothless tiger" when he voted against it in May, arguing that its reforms amounted to thin soup.

But with the measure long since passed, the search for an IG is finally beginning. The Tribune names the members of the committee that will do the headhunting:

The invitees are former Chicago police Superintendent Terry Hillard; former Cook County federal hiring monitor Julia Nowicki; attorney David Cerda, the first Latino to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court; Warren Wolfson, a retired state appellate judge and interim dean of DePaul University Law School; and the Rev. Clay Evans of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in Chicago.

The group has been asked to make its recommendations within a month.