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Emanuel gives City Council year-end deadline to find new IG

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday gave the City Council a year-end deadline to find a new inspector general and to give the office the powers needed to do a credible job. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday gave a divided City Council a year-end deadline to find a “qualified” new inspector general and to give Faisal Khan’s replacement the power he or she needs to do a credible job.

“I’ve been clear that by the end of this year, they must identify that person and that person must have both the ability and the authority to do their job,” Emanuel said.

Implied, but not stated, was the argument made by Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd) and Ameya Pawar (47th): It makes no sense to hire a new legislative inspector general until the “handcuffs” slapped on the old one are removed.

Smith and Pawar followed through on their promise at the City Council meeting Wednesday, introducing an ordinance tailored to remedy the funding and investigative problems that doomed Khan to failure.

It would give Khan’s successor “an annual budget of not less than $500,000.” That’s up from a current budget of $365,000.

The ordinance would also reinstate the power to investigate the campaign finances of Chicago aldermen stripped away from Khan last year. And it would lift the investigative rules that tied Khan’s hands in an attempt to turn him into a political patsy: a ban on anonymous complaints; sign-off by the Board of Ethics before launching investigations, and a requirement that the subject of any investigation be tipped off in advance.

Emanuel was asked whether he supports that ordinance and agrees with Pawar and Smith that no qualified inspector general would want the job with his or her hands tied behind their back.

“They have to identify that person and they have to do it by year’s end. I said the ability and the authority. This is for them to work through. But I’ve been clear we’re not going back to the day when there was no inspector general,” the mayor said.

After persuading the FBI to seize and secure his investigative records, Khan closed his office Monday with parting shots at Emanuel and a City Council that, as Paddy Bauler famously said, “ain’t ready for reform.”

“The system was rigged from Day One. This office was designed to fail intentionally, and the only people who did not get the memo were me and my staff. I do not believe the Council really wants any type of oversight at all,” Khan said.

“If this truly was a personnel issue in that they were not happy with me, they should have had a replacement ready to go. Instead of packing up the files, I should be transferring them to my successor. The real goal was to end oversight of City Council. The mayor made a number of promises that oversight would not go away. Yet here we are starting [Tuesday] with no oversight. It’s an incredible disappointment that it came to this.”

At a news conference after City Council meeting, Emanuel came prepared to defend his record on ethics reform.

“I made a pledge back in 2011 that every department, every agency in Chicago will have an inspector general. That’s been true. It’s a change [from] the past, and it’s now a new day for Chicago as it relates to inspectors general. They help you identify best practices. They also help you identify the waste and fraud in the system,” the mayor said.

“The City Council . . . has a do-not-hire list. . . . They actually have to abide by the do-not-hire list. They have the Shakman decree on the City Council. They have to abide by it. There’s a City Council budget office. There’s a City Council inspector general and that office went from zero to $365,000. I don’t think you can find another office that has seen that type of increase.”

Emanuel didn’t budge when told that no alderman is talking about returning to the days when nobody was watching the City Council.

“You say nobody’s debating that. There’s a reason nobody’s debating that. It didn’t just happen,” he said.

Now that the office is closed, the heat is on aldermen to decide what to do next. Some want to empower Ferguson to investigate aldermen and their employees. Others want to find a replacement for Khan and have already launched a search with a Nov. 30 deadline. Still others want to first take the handcuffs off the legislative inspector general.

Khan was adamant about what needs to happen next, and it won’t please the City Council’s two most powerful aldermen: Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) and Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th).

“The proper and immediate solution is to transfer this oversight power to Joe Ferguson. They should immediately call for a vote on this and let the record reflect who is against and who is for this. That will truly let taxpayers know who is for ethical oversight and who is not,” Khan said on his way out the door.

“Thirty-five aldermen wanted this pre-election. Hold their feet to the fire. Now it’s time to vote.”