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City watchdog to leave at end of his current appointed term

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson will depart mid-October on his own terms after Mayor Lightfoot strongly hinted last year that she wouldn’t be reappointing him.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson
Inspector General Joe Ferguson
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

City of Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson will leave at the end of his appointed term Oct. 15, according to a resignation letter obtained Friday by the Sun-Times.

Ferguson’s letter does not spell out the reasons for his departure, but it comes after Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested last year she would not be reappointing him.

“Joe Ferguson has been in office for a really long time ... He’s to be commended for the really good and hard work that he and his team have done on investigations but particularly on the auditing work,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times in October. “But you know, I’m somebody who favors term limits. And I don’t think people should stay in office indefinitely. I don’t think it’s good for them. And I don’t think it’s good for the organization that they lead.”

When Ferguson was appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009 to replace Inspector General David Hoffman, Lightfoot vouched for her friend Ferguson. Both are former federal prosecutors who worked in the Chicago office of the U.S. attorney.

Lightfoot kept her comments brief after an unrelated special City Council meeting, saying Ferguson emailed his resignation letter to her Friday afternoon. She wouldn’t say the last time she talked to the watchdog.

“I think Joe Ferguson has done tremendous work over his 12-year tenure as an inspector general, and I appreciate his decision to move on. We thank him for his service, and we will follow the ordinance for finding a successor to him,” she said.

Ferguson noted in his resignation that he is giving ample time to find a qualified replacement rather than appoint someone in an acting capacity “while a lengthy selection process unfolds.”

He argued “it best serves the interests of the public and of all involved to ensure enough time for an orderly transition and continuity of operations whose independence accords with national standards.”

Ferguson declined to discuss his resignation Friday afternoon. The resignation letter is dated Thursday and was sent to Lightfoot as well as Ald. Pat Dowell, chair of the City Council’s Budget Committee and Ald. Michelle Smith, chair of the Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight.

Ferguson’s time in office was marked by aggressive watchdog work for Chicago residents.

The Daily Line first reported Ferguson’s resignation.

Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout

Editor’s Note: This report was updated to correct the original media outlet to report the resignation.