Testimony on tweaks to ethics rules took up most of the roughly ten minute Committee on Committees, Rules, and Ethics Monday. Steve Berlin, Executive Director of the Board of Ethics, described the changes as a “snag list of repairs that a buyer can expect from a developer after moving into new construction,” saying the goal of the changes is to make the ordinance work more smoothly and correct minor errors and oversights. Jeffrey Levine, Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel, sat with Berlin during his testimony but was not called on for questioning by aldermen.

Members Present: Chairman Michelle Harris (8), Michael Scott Jr. (20), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Michele Smith (43), James Cappleman (46), Joe Moore (49)
Start Time: 10:06 a.m.

Read the full ordinance for the entire list of changes to current law. The ordinance’s changes are, Berlin’s words:

  • Expands role of departmental and aldermanic ethics officers

  • Clarifies that neither city property nor city-owned property can be used for unauthorized purposes — this includes property that the city doesn’t own but might be leasing for official city business

  • Moves the threshold for ownership in stock of a publicly traded company from $15,000 to one half of 1% of that company’s outstanding shares

  • Clarifies that people who disclose they have committed a past or ongoing ethics violation in the course of seeking advice from the Board of Ethics may report themselves voluntarily, but if they don’t, the board is legally obligated to report them within 14 days of their disclosure.

  • Refines the reverse revolving door provision that applies to incoming city officials or employees, permanently prohibiting them from participating in a city matter if they worked personally and substantially on that matter for their immediate pre-city employer or client. They would be prohibited for 2 years from working on any other matter that involves their pre-city employer or client unless they’ve severed monetary ties.

  • Subjects late filing and late training lobbyists to the same standard that applies to all city employees or officials. If an annual ethics form is filed late or training is completed late, the names of lobbyists would be made public.

  • Strengthens gift restrictions by requiring advance Board of Ethics approval for any city employee or official who wishes to accept reasonable hosting for meetings, public events or ceremonies related to official city business.

  • Enables the Board of Ethics to seek further clarification of issues raised in an investigative report.

  • Legalizes a Board of Ethics regulation allowing city prosecutors to exercise discretion not to file charges and instead go straight to a hearing on the merits of an ethics trial, if, in a prosecutor’s judgment, the evidence doesn’t support charges.

  • Clarifies that appeals from any final decision by the Board of Ethics would be subject to judicial review by the Cook County Circuit Court under applicable state law.