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Controversial, part-time city council IG likely to earn more than Mayor Emanuel

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: January 20, 2013 6:21AM

The City Council’s handpicked inspector general personally billed Chicago taxpayers for $148,125 for the first seven months of 2012 and is on pace to be paid more than Mayor Rahm Emanuel for what was supposed to be a part-time job.

With a $60,000-a-year budget, no staff and ground rules that tied his hands, former New York City inspector general Faisal Khan was hired in November, 2011, to spend the next four years investigating City Council corruption.

The Rules Committee approved Khan’s nomination only after being assured that Chicago’s first legislative inspector general would be a part-time employee without benefits paid $250 to $300 an hour while continuing to practice law on the side.

It didn’t turn out that way.

Records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in response to a Freedom of Information request show Khan billed the city $34,875 from Nov. 13, 2011, through Dec. 31 and $148,125 for the first seven months of this year.

If the billings continue at the current pace of $21,290 a month, Khan will get $255,480 this year. That’s $39,270 more than Emanuel’s annual salary of $216,210 and $93,624 more than the $161,856 a year paid to the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson.

Khan was asked how he justifies that salary for what was supposed to be a part-time job.

“I do not believe that anyone foresaw the number of complaints requiring investigation that have been filed against members of City Council and their staffs in twelve months alone,” he wrote in an email.

Khan noted that his semi-annual report issued in July documented “over 30 active investigations” still being “investigated and managed by me alone on a semi-full-time basis.”

Based on that volume of work, he asked for an additional $200,000 this year and even more in 2013.

A $94,000 amendment to Emanuel’s 2013 budget subsequently increased Khan’s annual budget from a revised $260,000 this year to $354,000 next year.

“While I did not receive the entirety of my request, I will be able to hire a minimum of two investigators and one support staff and my salary for 2013 will be comparable to other department heads in the city,” he wrote.

Aldermen were already furious about Khan’s demand for two years’ worth of time sheets for their full- and part-time City Council employees. They were stunned by the IG’s billings.

“That’s crazy. That’s a lot of money. If he continues at this rate, he’ll be paid more than the mayor and more than any of our commissioners,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said Tuesday. “It was supposed to be a part-time job. Is the problem in our offices [so great] that we really need him for that extent of time? [It had better be] a hot-bed of activity” to justify the expense.

Two years ago, aldermen balked at then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to give Ferguson the power to investigate aldermen.

Instead, they created their own inspector general and waited eighteen months — until after the February, 2011 aldermanic election — to fill the job.

A year ago, they settled on Khan, who was handpicked by Rules Committee Chairman Richard Mell (33rd) and Finance Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th).

Khan was also given strict ground rules. In order to investigate aldermen, their staffers and committee employees, Khan either needs a signed and sworn complaint and prior authorization from the Board of Ethics or Rules Committee sign-off to investigate an anonymous tip.

Some aldermen have accused Khan of overstepping his authority with the blanket request for their personnel records. Khan has refused to explain the demand, while insisting it is within his authority.

Emanuel has proposed another round of ethics reforms that would empower Khan to settle cases, initiate his own written complaints and accept “written anonymous complaints” against aldermen and City Council employees.

Aldermen are dead-set against anonymous complaints. And after the pay and time-sheet controversies, they’re unlikely to do anything to expand Khan’s authority. Some are even talking privately about eliminating his job altogether.

Despite the dramatic increase in his budget, the “independent website” Khan requested is still being handled by the city’s Department of Information Technology. That’s a concern because “online complaints are not as secure and confidential as any IG would require,” Khan said.

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