ROGERS PARK — Ald. Joe Moore violated state ethics laws by paying more than $22,000 in severance to fired employees, including one who claimed the money was in exchange for her not speaking out about political work being done at Moore's office, the city's legislative inspector general charged Monday.
Although the 22-year veteran alderman is not named in the report detailing the allegations by attorney Faisai Khan, Moore (49th) has confirmed he is the subject of the report, which says the money was given "improperly to his employees at the termination of their employment."
Moore, who is on vacation, didn't respond to repeated requests to be interviewed about the allegations, which have been investigated by federal authorities. But he issued a statement Monday saying the charges, which first aired on "Chicago Tonight" Sunday, are "completely false."
"The accusations raised by Attorney Faisal Khan in his report and aired on WTTW last night are completely false," the statement said. Referring to Khan's office, he said, "They provide more evidence of an office run amok with a lack of professionalism that should be unacceptable to every Chicagoan."
He also called the charges that political work was done in the ward office "offensive" and "an insult" to his other employees, who "frequently work far more than 40 hours a week."
Khan, whose office was created in 2011 to investigate members of the City Council, did not respond to requests for comment.
But he asserts in the report released Monday that "an alderman" issued taxpayer-funded severance packages to a former chief of staff in 2007 and an aldermanic aide in 2010.
The alderman "relieved the chief of staff of his duties," the report says, and gave him 81 days worth of pay. But the most the employee would have been eligible for as 26 days of unused vacation. The report said the employee "received an extra 55 days of pay," valued at $13,497.
Moore's former chief of staff, Kevin Cosgrove, was not named in the report, but he left in April 2007 during a hotly contested election that Moore nearly lost. Cosgrove was replaced months later by Betsy Vandercook.
In addition, the report alleges that in 2009 "this alderman fired another employee after she had complained about political work being done in the ward office — a violation of city and ethics laws."
The employee alleged that the alderman told her not to speak about ward business in return for 3½ months of salary, totaling $8,709. The employee contacted Khan to report the situation in December.
Although not mentioned by name, staffer Anne Sullivan stopped working for Moore at that time. Sullivan declined to comment when reached by phone Monday.
The report adds, "The evidence also unequivocally showed that the alderman’s current chief of staff was complicit in this matter." Vandercook could not immediately be reached for comment.
Moore's statement strongly denied the charges.
"My office has strict rules and procedures in place to prevent employees from doing political work on city time," Moore's statement said. "My entire career has been spent fighting against this sort of abuse. The allegations I would condone this behavior in my own office is offensive to me and an insult to the many hardworking employees of the 49th Ward Service Office."
Moore said the "so-called staff overpayments" were made to compensate "those terminated employees for unused vacation days, uncompensated overtime, and to ease their transitions to other employment during hard economic times."
Moore added: "No political games were played with this money."
He said the allegations originate from a "disgruntled former employee."
Khan's report states that due to civil and state statute of limitations the Board of Ethics or the Cook County State's Attorney's Office cannot pursue the case.
Moore has, however, been asked to return the money, according to the report.
The report also says Moore and Vandercook had been interviewed by federal authorities.
Suzanne Devane, the 49th Ward Republican committeeman, called for Moore to apologize to his constituents and resign his position.
Reporter Ted Cox contributed to this report.