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Emanuel Tweaks Ethics Ordinance

By Ted Cox | November 16, 2012 10:48am | Updated on November 20, 2012 11:19am
 Mayor Emanuel delivered a new ethics ordinance to the City Council on Thursday.
Mayor Emanuel delivered a new ethics ordinance to the City Council on Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Mayor Emanuel introduced what he called "the second installment of reform" on ethics by proposing a new ordinance Thursday.

"While the ink on this budget was not even dry yet," he said of the 2013 budget passed the same day, he moved forward on additional proposals made by the Ethics Reform Task Force he appointed a year ago.

The new ordinance clarifies the roles of the inspector generals, Law Department and Ethics Board, clearing delineating that "the IG ... investigates, the Law Department prosecutes ... and the board, based on a hearing officer's recommendation, imposes fines or recommends discipline."

The Better Government Association had pressed for the changes, especially with the recent appointment of Emanuel's entirely new Ethics Board.

The ordinance would also allow anonymous complaints to be filed, and the Legislative IG would be allowed to initiate complaints. Currently, the LIG cannot initiative investigations, and complaints have to be signed and sworn.

The IG oversees all Chicago ethics violations, while the LIG focuses on the City Council.

"The ordinance being introduced today puts forward a structure for the investigation and enforcement of ethics violations that delineates roles, provides clarity to city employees and officials, and enhances the enforcement powers of Chicago's ethics institutions," said Task Force Chairman Cynthia Canary.

The ordinance also sets strict limits on investigations, creating a "zero-tolerance policy for those who knowingly submit false complaints." It also calls for subjects of investigations to be given notice at least 30 days prior to a probable-cause finding.

Aldermen raised issues about nuisance complaints and the lack of notice during budget hearings with IG Joseph Ferguson.

The new ethics ordinance would also impose a two-year ban on the IG seeking political office after leaving the job. The LIG is already under such a limit. It would also extend a two-year ban on lobbying to all aldermen and their staff after leaving their jobs.

Emanuel and Canary both emphasized that the new ethics ordinances were an attempt to correct Chicago's national stereotype for dirty dealing and politics.

"We have turned the page, and we have a different kind of background," Emanuel said.

"The task force believes that Chicago has both the ability and the desire to become a leader in municipal ethics," Canary said.

The new ordinance will be taken up for council approval next month.