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Ald. Burke Blocks Merger of Inspectors General for at Least a Month

By Ted Cox | January 13, 2016 1:31pm
 Aldermen Michele Smith and George Cardenas said they'd continue to push for a single inspector general.
Aldermen Michele Smith and George Cardenas said they'd continue to push for a single inspector general.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The City Council's senior alderman moved Wednesday to delay the merging of city investigations under a single inspector general.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) moved to defer and publish an ordinance eliminating the legislative inspector general's office and placing all city probes under Inspector General Joe Ferguson. Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) backed him. It will delay the measure at least until the next council meeting.

The council has been without a watchdog since Faisal Khan's term ended in November. According to Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), lead sponsor of the ordinance, the majority of aldermen felt that "merging" the offices would save money at a time when city finances are stretched, and the Workforce Development Committee passed the reform Monday.

 Inspector General Joe Ferguson may or may not get to handle all city investigations.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson may or may not get to handle all city investigations.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Austin and others argued previously that elected officials deserve their own watchdog to address unfounded political attacks.

Smith said afterward that she would continue to push for a single inspector general, adding, "Aldermen should be held to the same standard" as any other city employee.

Burke's maneuver puts passage off at least a month until the next council meeting. Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th), chairman of the committee that passed the measure earlier this week, proposed creating a "working group" of a handful of aldermen to look the ordinance over before next month's meeting.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) expressed concerns about the perception of a backroom deal going down.

"If they have a list of issues that need to be clarified, then get those out publicly so we can all take a look at it, discuss it, get this done with," he said. "For the most part, almost everybody's on board with it."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel took no position except to say, "That's a healthy debate," and that one way or another the council will have a watchdog, adding, "There's no going back."

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