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Editorial: Uncage the ‘paper tiger’

City Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan his Chicago office photographed Thusday July 26 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

City Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan in his Chicago office, photographed on Thusday, July 26, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 21, 2012 6:14AM

We always thought the job of an investigator was to, um, investigate.

So pardon us if we can’t muster much concern for a few Chicago aldermen who are passing out with the vapors just because the City Council’s inspector general actually wants to look into something.

How about they let the man, Faisal Khan, do his job?

If that’s too much to ask, then disband the office altogether and turn its responsibilities over to Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, as former Mayor Richard M. Daley wanted to do and Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to do during his campaign. Ferguson now has authority to investigate executive offices, but not the City Council or such related operations as the Park District and the Public Building Commission.

Some aldermen are terribly upset because Khan has demanded to see the last two years of time sheets for all full- and part-time City Council employees. The aldermen also are having conniption fits over the possibility that anonymous tipsters might slip Khan some dirt.

They’re so alarmed, in fact, that they are talking about reducing Khan’s authority or eliminating his office altogether. One alderman called Khan “a paper tiger who thinks he has teeth.”

Pardon us if we don’t see much cause for aldermanic panic here.

The time sheets, to begin with, are public documents. It’s not as if Khan were asking for an alderman’s personal e-mails. Any alderman who says Khan is prohibited by ordinance from making this type of inquiry is simply letting it be known that he or she would prefer Khan’s office to be — by design — a sham.

As for those objectionable anonymous tips, they often are the only way an investigator can know what’s really going on — info from an insider. Tipsters want to stay anonymous because they could lose their jobs.

Allowing anonymous tips is one of several ethics reforms proposed by Emanuel. The mayor also would empower Khan to speed up investigations and initiate his own written complaints. The Council is scheduled to act on Emanuel’s proposals in December.

Emanuel recently replaced all seven members of the Board of Ethics, which had been remarkably ineffective, and installed appointees widely seen as professionals. But he has shrugged off questions about why he didn’t follow through on his campaign promise to expand Ferguson’s authority.

You could fill a prison with all the Chicago aldermen over the years who been convicted of federal crimes. We’re guessing they didn’t have much use for inspectors general and all that reform stuff, either.

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