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In 'Crisis of Confidence,' City Council Delays Appointing Internal Watchdog

By Ted Cox | December 12, 2015 12:19pm
 Aldermen Michele Smith and Ameya Pawar discuss matters before a recent City Council hearing.
Aldermen Michele Smith and Ameya Pawar discuss matters before a recent City Council hearing.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — As the City Council claims to be ready to help reform the Police Department, the Council itself has been without an internal watchdog since November.

While some aldermen pushed for quick action on appointing a new City Council watchdog, citing the "crisis of confidence" that is sweeping the city following the release of the Laquan McDonald video, an abrupt change in Monday's agenda will effectively prevent a vote on the matter.

Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan stepped down in mid-November at the end of his four-year term. At the time, he told Politico that his office was working on “more than a handful” of confidential investigations of aldermen with help from various federal entities. The FBI took custody of the investigation files on his last day in office.

On his way out, Khan slammed the system for City Council oversight: "I notified half of the City Council, if not more, they were under investigation — now imagine if I had to go back to those same people and ask for funding. Despite our appeals to the mayor’s office we got zero response. Zero support."

There are two competing proposals for a City Council watchdog, and lead sponsor Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) intended for aldermen to pick between one or the other Monday and proceed from there.

"I don't know why the agenda was changed," said Smith. "But this has languished long enough. We are having a crisis of confidence in our city. No one is above the law, and the City Council should put itself first on the list of adhering to a higher and better standard, as we demand it of others."

"I don't think we have any room to delay," said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who has joined Smith in sponsoring the measures.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gone on the record saying the Council should select someone for the post by the end of the year. Inaction on Monday would make that highly unlikely.

The agenda for a joint hearing Monday by the Rules Committee and the Workforce Development Committee was abruptly changed Wednesday by Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th) and Patrick O'Connor (40th), chairmen of the respective committees, to specify "a vote will not be taken."

Harris is chairman of the Rules Committee, infamous for being "where good legislation goes to die." O'Connor is the mayor's floor leader in the Council. Neither returned calls for comment.

"There is no reason for delay ... it would be shameful if the City Council did not make itself part of the solution and remained part of the problem." Smith said.

"The City Council should take care of its own business," she added, "and we could do it on Monday."

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