Inspector General Joe Ferguson was blunt in his assessment of the city’s latest police reform efforts and his interpretation of the ethics ordinance when he went before Budget Committee Tuesday to be reappointed for another six year term.
He faced more questions than any of the other mayoral appointees up for consideration, to the point that a restless Budget Chair Carrie Austin (34) told him, “When budget time comes, all you have to do is show up and have lunch with us, they’ve asked every question under the sun.”
He critiqued a confidential draft plan Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted to the Justice Department concerning continued federal oversight of the police department as “redundant” and said he wasn’t consulted.
“What it essentially is from my perspective is a less than IG, it’s a shackled IG with a narrow band of issues that it can attend to,” Ferguson said of the proposed oversight structure detailed in a memorandum of agreement that has yet to surface publicly.
“Do we really need this redundant oversight function that has no enforcement power when we’ve already got what we think–or what I’d like to think you all think–is an effective, independent function within the city?” he asked, referring to a new division in his office tasked with analyzing police department data to identify trends and recommend new strategies.
Later in his testimony, he intensified his criticisms, telling aldermen that they need to be realistic in understanding that a Justice Department under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions won’t provide the support Chicago needs because of Sessions’ record opposing civil rights.
“That’s who we are negotiating with,” he stressed. “It’s the Justice Department that would decide whether to enforce. Look who that Justice Department is and tell me that there is any reason for confidence that they would actually step into that situation […] So we’re left with essentially a handcuffed, second IG. That’s what the MOA is.”
“The alternative is crappy, too, right? But we’ve all got to recognize that we are in a crappy situation, there’s a lot of work we need to do,” he said of the added costs and work that will be needed to rebuild the police department for the long haul.
He also said the city’s current definition of what constitutes a lobbyist is “the broadest in the country” telling aldermen that under it’s current form, any small business-owning constituent who inquires about a street repairs at their home is technically lobbyist. An audible chorus of “wows” could be heard from aldermen, who appeared shocked by the realization. He added that it’s okay for the definition to be broad as long as the regulatory body (The Board of Ethics) clearly defined “the tipping point.”
Several other appointments to top slots in the Emanuel Administration advanced out of Budget Committee Tuesday, including a new Budget Director and a new Water Department Commissioner, as well as a renewed term for Procurement Chief Jamie Rhee:
- Randy Conner, Commissioner Department of Water Management (replaces Barrett Murphy) A 20-year veteran of the city’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Department of Streets and Sanitation, Conner would take over the department in the midst of a scandal. An Inspector General probe revealed a series of racist and sexist emails sent among DWM employees, forcing the resignation of Murphy. With that issue top of mind for aldermen at Tuesday’s meeting, Conner detailed new sensitivity training to change the culture of the department. “This appointment is the best we’ve seen yet,” Budget Chair Carrie Austin concluded before the vote, echoing colleagues at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing and a recent statement members of the Council’s Black Caucus issued on the appointment. (Press Release)
- Samantha Fields, Budget Director, Office Of Budget and Management (Replaces Alex Holt) Following a short stint as the head of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), Fields will take over the city’s Budget Office as it prepares for the 2018 budget season.
Two Chicago Public Library Board reappointments advanced unanimously, renewing terms for Barbara Bowman and Patricia (Patty) Gaytan Perez through June 30, 2020. Neither were asked to testify.