Task Force: Whistleblowers should get more protection

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an ethics task force at City Hall today. This is Cynthia Canary (chair of the panel). | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Whistleblowers will get more protection and city employees will be required to report corruption under proposed changes to Chicago’s ethics ordinance that will be announced Monday.

Those changes are among 34 recommendations by an Ethics Task Force recruited by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to overhaul the city’s ethics ordinance.

The task force is chaired by Cindy Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Other members include former state senator, comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch; former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta and Ald. Will Burns (4th).

Other task force recommendations include:

â—† Adding a “reverse revolving door” provision that prevents City employees or officials from working on any matter that involves a former employer for two years from the time of hire.

â—† Simplifying and increasing the penalties for violations of the ethics ordinance.

â—† Strengthening gift restrictions by prohibiting all honoraria and cutting the cumulative gift cap in half, to $50 per year.

â—† Prohibiting supervisors from soliciting political contributions from anyone they supervise. Additionally, prohibiting city employees and officials from either accepting or giving campaign contributions at City Hall or on city property.

More details on whistleblower protection, corruption requirements and ethic proposals will be in a report released by the task force Monday.

Andy Shaw, whose Better Government Association participated in hearings held by the task force, said Mayor Emanuel has “made a good start.”

“The mayor appears to be serious about adding teeth to the city’s ethics ordinance, but his additional safeguards are only meaningful if he also embraces the recommendations of his ethics panel,” Shaw said. “He talked the talk in his first year – now let’s see if he really plans to walk the walk.”

Another round of recommendations will come out next summer addressing more difficult issues such as how to investigate corruption, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city.

Still open is the question of whether the proposed reforms will include allowing aldermen to be investigated by the city’s inspector general, an idea that already met resistance from the city council.

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