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City Council urges swift firing of corrupt city workers

Patrick Slattery (clockwise from top left) John ResMario C. OlivellAnthony W. Valentino William Wellhausen

Patrick Slattery (clockwise from top left), John Resa, Mario C. Olivella, Anthony W. Valentino, William Wellhausen

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Updated: May 4, 2011 4:46AM

Chicago city employees who are convicted of corruption would no longer be able to keep collecting their paychecks while awaiting sentencing, under a crackdown proposed Thursday that calls for firing upon conviction.

Three days after the Chicago Sun-Times’ “The Watchdogs” column disclosed the existence of a loophole through which workers convicted of corruption have remained on the city payroll, in some cases for months, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) moved to close it.

The ordinance introduced at Thursday’s City Council meeting would change the city’s personnel rules to mandate that any city employee “found guilty of a crime involving corruption during the course of his [or her] public duties shall be discharged immediately after the rendered verdict.”

Moreno said he was incensed to learn that nine city employees convicted of taking bribes and participating in other taxpayer rip-offs in recent years collected a total of $383,205 after their convictions.

Corporation Counsel Mara Georges has said she believes the city has the power to fire people immediately upon conviction. But, on appeal, the Mayor Daley-appointed city Human Resources Board has blocked such firings until sentencing.

“Right now, we are spending Chicago taxpayer dollars on convicted felons until sentencing — and that time frame can be a year, two years, three years,” Moreno said. “I understand the fact that everyone deserves a right for an appeal. But when does the taxpayer stop paying — after the first appeal, second appeal, third appeal? We’ve got to put a limit on it. . . . I get asked constantly about how we’re gonna cut. . . . I can’t just walk past a $500,000 to $1 million. That’s low-hanging fruit we can get right now.”

Moreno noted that Inspector General Joe Ferguson recommended an immediate cut-off of convicted felons in October and said, “We haven’t done anything since then.”

Earlier this week, mayoral hopeful Gery Chico proposed the change in personnel rules. Moreno is one of a handful of aldermen who has endorsed Chico.

Also on Thursday, the City Council approved an ordinance that would require Chicago public and private school student-athletes who exhibit “signs, symptoms or behaviors” linked to concussions to be yanked out of their sport and barred from returning without written medical clearance.

School exemptions from water and sewer fees would be used as a hammer to enforce the anti-concussion crackdown. Schools that allow injured athletes to return to the field prematurely — either to practice or participate in games — would lose their exemptions.

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