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Ald. Joe Moore says FBI questioned him in ethics case

Ald. Joe Moore (49th)

Ald. Joe Moore (49th)

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Updated: August 24, 2013 6:24AM

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said Monday he’s been questioned by the FBI about allegations by a “disgruntled employee” he called “completely false”: that he used his taxpayer-funded ward office to do political work and paid the employee to try and cover it up.

The City Council’s self-declared champion of ethics reform blamed a legislative inspector general “run amok” for a report that accuses him of multiple ethics violations.

Moore fired back one day after the WTTW-TV program “Chicago Tonight” identified Moore online as being the unnamed alderman accused of firing a staff member for allegedly blowing the whistle on campaign work done in Moore’s taxpayer-funded aldermanic office.

The report was issued by Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan, the former New York City investigator handpicked by Chicago aldermen to investigate the City Council instead of giving the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson that power.

The same day Moore defended himself against alleged ethics violations, the White House announced it will honor Moore Tuesday as a “Champion of Change,” praised for being the first elected official to bring “participatory budgeting” to the United States.

In Khan’s report, the legislative inspector general reportedly concluded that “an alderman” — subsequently identified as Moore — warned the staffer in question to keep her mouth shut about the alleged political work, then gave her a $8,709 payment equal to 81 days worth of severance.

On Monday, Moore acknowledged that he has been questioned by the FBI about the circumstances surrounding his November 2009 decision to fire staff assistant Anne Sullivan and pay her unused vacation days and uncompensated overtime to ease her transition to a new job.

But he denounced as “completely false” the allegation that he used his aldermanic office to do political work and used the cash payment to try and cover it up.

“They asked me why I let her go. I explained she was a very disruptive force in the office and it was affecting employee morale. She had a particular conflict with my chief of staff and I finally decided that, in spite of the fact she did good work, we had to let her go,” Moore said Monday.

“I have a woman who was a very angry woman and very much of a disgruntled employee. We also have a legislative inspector general who conducted a very unprofessional investigation. Never interviewed me. Never returned my calls or responded to my attorney’s letters. ... From the beginning, I was opposed to creation of his office. I always felt Joe Ferguson should be given authority to investigate us. [Khan] has a bone to pick with me.”

Khan did not return repeated phone calls.

Moore charged that Khan’s decision to “air his false accusations in the media, revealing my identity” is a “direct violation” of the ordinance that prohibits the legislative IG from “disclosing the identity of those who are the subject of any investigation.”

The alderman didn’t hesitate when asked whether he or any of his employees ever did campaign work at the 49th Ward aldermanic office.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I pay $1,000 a month for a political office outside my ward office. There’s no reason for me to do political work out of the ward office.”

Since his election in 1991, Moore has been a leader of the City Council’s independent bloc and a champion for ethics reform.

Last year, Moore used a parliamentary maneuver to prevent voters in 10 Chicago wards from voting on a referendum asking them if they would prefer an elected school board.

Colleagues said the strong-arm tactics Moore once railed against completed his transition from a City Council reformer to an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel co-opted by a committee chairmanship.

Earlier this year, Moore was one of 10 aldermen with ties to Emanuel to break away from the Progressive Caucus and launch their own “Paul Douglas Alliance.”

At the time, Moore said the alliance had a “different approach” than the Progressive Caucus aimed more at solving problems than opposing the mayor.

Asked whether Emanuel had asked aldermen to form a more moderate group of progressives, a classic divide-and-conquer strategy, Moore said, “Emphatically no.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in January that Khan had personally billed Chicago taxpayers for $270,625 in 2012 — and $305,500 since he started work on Nov. 13, 2011.

That’s $44,415 a year more than Emanuel’s annual salary of $216,210, $108,769 more than the $161,856 a year paid to Ferguson and nearly $10,000 more than the $260,004 paid to Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

With a $60,000-a-year budget, no staff and ground rules that tied his hands, 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-ever 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 hasn’t turned out that way.

Since his arrival, Khan’s annual budget has been increased from $60,000 to $260,000 last year and $354,000 in 2013.

Aldermen were already furious about Khan’s demand for two years’ worth of time sheets for their full- and part-time City Council employees. His billings added fuel to the fire — and so will the decision to go public with the Moore investigation.

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