Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), Chairman of the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee, sent out an email to aldermen yesterday reminding them that he plans to discharge an ordinance from his committee that would eliminate the Legislative Inspector General’s office and put the authority of policing aldermen under the jurisdiction of the City’s Inspector General, Joe Ferguson.
That ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Michele Smith (43) and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), was deferred and published at last month’s city council meeting at the request of two powerful aldermen: Finance Chairman Ed Burke (14) and Budget Chairman Carrie Austin (34). After that meeting, Ald. Austin told Aldertrack she wanted to clean up the language of the ordinance and add a provision requiring signed affidavits for all complaints. “If you gonna tell on me, how come you don’t want to swear to it?” she had asked rhetorically.
The email Ald. O’Connor sent is a procedural Rule 41 reminder that the full Council meeting will have to vote on the matter at the City Council meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.
A working group of six aldermen created at the January City Council meeting to “clean up” the ordinance has met twice since then, said one member, Ald. Joe Moore (49).
Another member, Ald. Pawar, tells Aldertrack he and his colleagues are, “still working things through… people are still trying to figure out whether there are any tweaks,” but couldn’t offer up specific changes that have been proposed.
Ald. Moore stayed similarly tight-lipped, “We’re still working on stuff. Still working on some language.”
“There’s going to be a vote. That much we know,” Pawar said.
Ald. Will Burns (4), who sponsored, but raised concerns about the ordinance, and two Progressive Caucus members and supporters: Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), and Ald. Rick Munoz (22), are also part of the working group.
Before last month’s vote, Ald. Burns (4) suggested he’d like to see more protections from political attacks. “Sometimes when you tell people ‘no’ and you make difficult decisions over land use, over TIF funding, over public subsidies, CDBG, whether someone can purchase a vacant lot, you could anger those people and they could file complaints and use, or abuse, unfortunately, the ethics process to harass and to seek retaliation.”
He suggested formation of a special City Council committee, similar to the State Legislature’s bicameral Legislative Ethics Commission, to “have some sort of oversight over whether or not the Inspector General conducts an investigation… as a check or protection against what can be fairly sweeping powers.” He said he worried that it would be politically difficult to change provisions of the ordinance in the future without it looking like aldermen were “watering it down.”