CITY HALL — Aldermen set up battle lines in fighting over a new City Council watchdog Wednesday, as the mayor urged them to have someone in place by the end of the year.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) submitted an ordinance at Wednesday's City Council meeting that would strengthen the Office of the Legislative Inspector General.
"As you all know, a blue-ribbon committee has been convened to select a new legislative inspector general," Smith wrote in a letter seeking support from other aldermen. "While we and many other aldermen agree that a sensible solution to the oversight of City Council is to fold the LIG's responsibilities into that of the existing inspector general, others believe that the offices should be kept separate."
To that end, Smith's new proposal would establish a basic funding level for the legislative inspector general, and would also give the office the same powers as Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to initiate investigations and probe campaign contributions.
Smith and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) also submitted a formal letter Wednesday to Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th), in his role as chairman of the Committee on Workforce Audit. It urged him to hold a hearing on the proposed ordinance that "would empower the legislative inspector general to further ensure proper oversight of city government and particularly aldermen and City Council employees in order to prevent corruption, fraud and waste."
Yet Smith's proposed ordinance was assigned to the Rules Committee, as has O'Connor's own proposal to give Inspector General Ferguson control over all city investigations, including aldermen. And Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), chairman of the Rules Committee, has yet to hold a hearing on the matter.
In fact, last week Harris announced formation of the blue-ribbon panel to search for a replacement for Faisal Khan, whose term expired Monday. The five-person committee includes former Cook County Shakman Compliance Administrator Mary Robinson, as well as Alejandra Garza, James Montgomery Sr., Stephen Pugh and John Storino. That would indicate Harris is prepared to go ahead and fill the office without strengthening its powers, even though Khan left office insisting he had been doomed to fail with an insufficient budget and weak investigative powers.
Khan closed down the office Monday after the FBI subpoenaed files he had already flagged for them for possible investigations.
Emanuel said after Wednesday's City Council meeting that it was up to the aldermen to reach a solution.
"This is for them to work through," he said. Yet he also insisted they find someone with "the ability and the authority" to do the job, and he demanded they have someone selected by the end of the year.
Potential applicants have until the end of the month to file to fill the position of legislative inspector general. As of now, there is no Rules Committee meeting scheduled before the final City Council meeting of the year Dec. 9.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: