clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

THE WATCHDOGS: Part-time City Council watchdog made nearly $800,000 in 4 years

Faisal Khan, seen in his office in July 2012, was paid nearly $800,000 for four years of part-time work as the Chicago City Council's inspector general. And he's suing for more. | Sun-Times file photo

In his turbulent four-year term as the Chicago City Council’s first and possibly last legislative inspector general, Faisal Khan was paid nearly $800,000 for his part-time work, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

And Khan, who left the post in November, wants more. He’s suing for tens of thousands of dollars he says he’s still owed, pressing a lawsuit against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and three prominent aldermen.

At the next City Council meeting, on Wednesday, aldermen could finally approve an ordinance granting the same inspector general’s office that oversees City Hall’s executive branch the power to investigate them. Approving such oversight by the inspector general — something aldermen have resisted for more than 25 years — would end the council’s experiment with policing itself.

A tally of the final bills from Khan’s now-abandoned office shows just how costly the endeavor proved to be for Chicago taxpayers.

The city spent nearly $1.4 million on Khan and his agency — the Office of the Legislative Inspector General — between the end of 2011 and the shutdown of the office on Nov. 15, when Khan’s term ended.

About 57 percent of all the money spent on the office — more than $793,000 — went to Khan for his part-time legal services, according to city records.

Khan billed for an average of 26 hours and 13 minutes a week, a Sun-Times analysis of his invoices to the Emanuel administration shows.

Khan was paid $250 an hour. Nearly all of the few aides he employed worked for less than a tenth of his rate — $24 an hour. Khan’s top deputy, veteran Chicago political operative Kelly Tarrant, was the only exception, paid $26 an hour.

Records show Khan also sent the city the bills for:

• A 65-inch, high-definition, flat-screen Panasonic TV that Khan bought for a conference room. The $1,329.04 purchase was made in December 2014, less than a year before Khan’s term ended.

• Khan’s 2014 yearly fee to register as a lawyer with the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. It cost city taxpayers $342 for Khan to remain licensed to practice law in Illinois that year.

• Two “white-noise machines” Khan bought for the office in March 2015 for $101.90. A city budget spokeswoman says officials told Khan’s office the expense was not eligible for reimbursement and did not pay for the machines.

“The TV was primarily used as a large monitor in support of . . . investigations,” Khan said in a Facebook post on Saturday, adding that it was left in his office when his term ended.

Aldermen created the Office of the Legislative Inspector General in 2010, resisting efforts to let City Hall’s inspector general investigate them.

After fielding 170 applications and interviewing 30 hopefuls, council leaders announced the selection of Khan, a lawyer from New York, in November 2011. Khan got the job with the strong endorsements of two council powerhouses: then-33rd Ward Ald. Richard Mell and Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

“This is nobody nobody sent,” Mell said at the time.

Khan was paid nearly $35,000 for working the last few weeks of 2011.

The following year, his office was given a budget of $260,000. He paid all of his budget to himself, the records show.

In 2013, the city increased the office’s budget to $354,000. Khan has said he agreed in late 2012 to limit his pay at the urging of Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s council floor leader.

“As part of that conversation, Ald. O’Connor brought up the issue of capping my compensation, anticipating possible media concerns,” Khan said in court papers filed last year.

Khan says he and O’Connor agreed he would be paid no more than $202,000 a year, “which we agreed is the equivalent to the salary of all department heads, with benefits and pension.

“I would be able to remain part-time if I choose and continue to have outside employment,” Khan said.

In 2013, he made $202,000. But the following year, as he began to feud with aldermen “for inadequately funding my office,” his budget ran out by July. The city didn’t pay an invoice Khan submitted for more than $75,000 in August 2014.

In his ongoing lawsuit in Cook County circuit court, Khan is seeking payment for that bill.

The defendants in the case, which the city is trying to get dismissed, include the Emanuel administration, the City Council, Burke, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

Burke has received free legal representation in the case from one powerhouse Chicago attorney, Joseph Power, while another, Michael Kasper, has offered free legal counsel to Harris and Austin.

Khan says in his suit that a top Emanuel aide promised him he eventually would be paid for the second half of 2014 but later reneged.

“My lack of agreed compensation has plunged me into an emergency financial predicament from which I cannot arise without payment of back-owed funds,” Khan wrote a year ago, saying he had “exhausted all savings to pay rent” and couldn’t even pay his state and federal taxes because of the alleged broken promise by city budget director Alexandra Holt.

In 2015, the city budget limited Khan’s pay to $171,000. Records show he billed for — and was paid —the entire amount by mid-year.

Khan’s lawyer, Clint Krislov, says, “He did a remarkable job while fighting uphill all the way.”

When Khan’s term ended in November, he closed the office and turned over all of his files to the FBI.

To date, no criminal charges have been filed in any case that originated in the legislative inspector general’s office, an agency whose powers were, from the start, sharply restricted by the aldermen.

Soon after Richard M. Daley was first elected mayor in 1989, aldermen voted to allow the creation of an inspector general — but exempted themselves and their aides from the new office’s authority.

Now, a majority of aldermen have signed on to an ordinance that would clear the way for them to face scrutiny from City Hall’s inspector general, Joseph Ferguson.

A vote is expected Wednesday, though City Hall sources say aldermen are planning changes to the measure to limit the inspector general’s authority over them to possible violations of the law.