Getting rid of the City Council’s handpicked inspector general will not be as simple as lining up the 26 votes needed to shift the power to the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson.
The ordinance that created the Legislative Inspector General clearly states that Faisal Khan can be removed before his four-year term expires in over a year “only for cause.”
That requires the City Council to serve Khan with “written notice” outlining the bill of particulars against him and give him 10 days to request a hearing “on the cause for removal” before the Committee on Rules and Ethics.
If a hearing is not requested within 10 days, the legislative inspector general “shall be deemed to have resigned his office as of the tenth day after receipt of the notice,” the ordinance states.
If Khan does demand a hearing, it must be convened within 10 days and concluded within 14 to give him the opportunity to “appear, be represented by counsel and be heard” in response to the charges.
Only then would there be a City Council vote.
Khan has made it clear that he does not intend to go quietly.
He has lashed out at Chicago aldermen for tying his hands, ignoring his demands for records and interviews and stripping him of the power to investigate their campaign finances. He has accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of sending an “alarmingly demoralizing message” about the importance of ethics oversight by ignoring Khan’s year-long demand for more money.
Given that track record, Khan would almost certainly demand a hearing that could turn into an uncomfortable pre-election spectacle. He could also go to court to force the city to pay him or agree to a settlement.
Ald. Will Burns (4th) is among a majority of aldermen who have lined up behind a plan to abolish Khan’s $354,000-a-year Office of Legislative Inspector General and transfer the power to investigate aldermen and Council employees to Ferguson.
A member of Emanuel’s ethics task force, Burns acknowledged that the show-cause hearing tailor-made to prevent a firing “for political reasons” could put the City Council in a bit of a trick-bag.
“There are a number of aldermen who have pointed out that Faisal Khan has exceeded his statutory authority in terms of investigations, in terms of matter of investigation. Others have pointed to the lack of professional investigators working in his office and active political people working on his staff. There could be a case made” to fire him, Burns said.
“Butthe Council would have to handle that with a certain amount of delicacy….You want to be very careful about creating a martyr.”
Apparently referring to the 30 Chicago aldermen convicted on federal corruption charges since 1972, Burns said, “It’s very hard for Chicagoans to believe that aldermen actually do want to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. So, what may look like a firing for cause ends up looking like the star chamber. That’s why you want to be very careful.”
Burns said there is an alternative route that would avoid the spectacle of putting Khan on trial: Transfer the power to Ferguson. And let the City Council’s handpicked inspector general sit there with no money and nothing to do until his contract expires.
Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) wants to get rid of Khan and find a new legislative inspector general. She does not trust Ferguson to investigate aldermen and City Council employees.
Austin said she does not believe aldermen will have trouble making the case to terminate Khan.
“You go to the public with everything. You go to all of these review boards dispelling information. Then, you openly accuse aldermen — without] naming them — and say there’s gonna be indictments coming down. Why would you go out and say something like that because you got mad?” Austin said.
But, she said, “It really would be an ugly scene. And since he’s already like made us the bad guys, people will see it that way or they will use it that way.”
Khan, who has exhausted his budget for the entire year,could not be reached for comment on the behind-the-scenes maneuverings. His staff demanded that the Chicago Sun-Times submit questions in writing, then refused to answer any of them.