No one on County Board sharing Arroyo’s view of inspector general
The Sun-Times found no groundswell of discontent with the inspector general on the 19-member County Board. Commissioner Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park, said he has “zero problems” with Patrick Blanchard and suggested the problem was with Arroyo’s intervention in his friend’s parking ticket situation.
Days after Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. said he and other members of the County Board were concerned about Inspector General Patrick Blanchard’s fitness for the position, no commissioners were willing to publicly share such reservations.
Eleven commissioners polled by the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday and Wednesday about Blanchard gave varying responses from full-throated support for the watchdog to avoiding commenting on the matter.
“I’m not concerned at all — I voted to confirm him,” veteran Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, said. “I think that there is no showing of bias on his part, and I would expect that there are some who would vote against him, and there would be others who would vote for him because he’s shown pure independence.”
Arroyo has accused Blanchard of “racial bias” in his handling of an investigation into a parking ticket that the watchdog said a political insider got tossed out after asking a Forest Preserve cop, “Do you know who I am?”
Commissioner Brandon Johnson, D-Chicago, said “so far [Blanchard] is doing his due diligence in responding to inquiries that have been brought to his office — that’s the role he’s supposed to take and it’s clear that he’s quite receptive to those inquiries.”
Commissioner Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park, saidhe has “zero problems” with Blanchard and suggested the problem was with Arroyo’s intervention in his friend’s parking ticket situation.
“This is why people have such a low opinion of elected officials,” Morrison said. “This casts a black eye on all the commissioners at the board. It’s just bad.”
Last Friday, Arroyo acknowledged that he was the unnamed commissioner in an inspector general report who was accused of stepping in when his political friend Luis Pena was given the $250 parking ticket last year. Arroyo said he weighed in to make sure Latinos were being treated fairly.
According to Blanchard’s report, which was released last week, Arroyo contacted a “high-ranking [Forest Preserve Police] official” about voiding the citation. Because the officer “displayed a poor attitude,” Arroyo asked for the cop to be sent to his office for questioning, the report says.
When questioned by Blanchard about intervening, Arroyo claimed to want to “address problems between minority and law enforcement communities” and to go over the procedure for challenging the ticket. That explanation, about challenging the ticket, “strained credulity,” according to the inspector general.
Arroyo also acknowledged none of the “historical problems” of community-police relations was at play, and the ticket-challenging procedure was listed on the ticket, according to the report.
Blanchard doubled down on that detail in his report Monday, saying “the commissioner was interviewed and denied that race was the basis for the ticket being issued.”
That came after Arroyo released a statement on Monday seeking to clarify his role and intentions, saying he didn’t ask for the ticket to be dismissed and that he requested the situation surrounding the issuing of the ticket be investigated because it was issued as a result of racial bias. That request went unfulfilled.
He also went after Blanchard.
“I believe that racial bias resulted in the ticket and at this point, I have no reason to doubt that racial bias may have also played a role in this biased Inspector General’s report,” Arroyo said in his statement, adding that he wasn’t allowed to provide context to the accusations in the report.
“In fact, Inspector General Blanchard made up his mind about this issue without trying to contact the park’s witnesses or the person who received the ticket. He never actually conducted an investigation but instead leveled accusations that make me, and other commissioners, concerned about his fitness for this position.”
The Sun-Times found no groundswell of discontent with Blanchard on the 17-member County Board.
Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago, who also chairs the county’s Finance Committee, voiced his support, saying “I voted for [Blanchard] and I have confidence in him.”
Commissioner Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park, said he’s not one of those commissioners who questions Blanchard’s fitness for the job and hopes “the situation gets resolved.”
Commissioner Alma Anaya, D-Chicago, said the expectation is to be able to have faith in the inspector general, “that’s why he’s independent.”
“We have to make sure that he’s not biased and that he does his due diligence to get all accurate information,” Anaya said.
Being the ethics police isn’t a popular job, Commissioner Bridget Degnen, D-Chicago, said. “I think he was hired to do a difficult job, and I think most of the time he gets it right.”
The Democrat from Chicago who was sworn in in December also said she has faith that “we need an independent inspector general.”
Commissioner Scott Britton, D-Glenview, said he has “complete confidence” in the inspector general but didn’t want to say more. Commissioner Bridget Gainer said “I don’t believe Pat Blanchard is a racist,” but declined to comment further.
Commissioners Bill Lowry, D-Chicago, and Kevin Morrison, D-Mount Prospect, didn’t want to comment. The county’s Board of Ethics is looking into the case, and some cited that as their reason for staying mum for now.
Nick Shields, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said “the matter is under review by the Board of Ethics and we’ll have no further comment until that review has been completed.”
Arroyo did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.