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Emanuel: Ethics reforms not timed to Blagojevich sentencing

Updated: December 7, 2011 6:28PM



With a straight face, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday it’s a mere “coincidence” that he launched a four-month overhaul of Chicago’s anemic ethics ordinance on the same day that his former ally Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to prison.

Emanuel insisted the timing had more to do with the one-year anniversary of his campaign news conference on ethics with former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

Never mind that Emanuel has yet to deliver on all of the reforms he announced with Hoffman on that day. He has not yet empowered Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the Chicago Park District and Public Building Commission, nor has the mayor guaranteed the IG’s office one-tenth of 1 percent of the city’s annual budget.

Emanuel is also fighting an unprecedented lawsuit filed by the inspector general over access to information and documents in the hands of the Law Department. Ferguson wants authority to enforce his subpoenas without Law Department approval. The mayor, like Richard M. Daley before him, won’t give it.

“I have not done everything. I have not also finished out my term yet,” Emanuel said Wednesday.

“But, I have taken the two most essential steps that were important to the independence of the IG,” by holding Ferguson’s office harmless from city budget cuts and granting the IG hiring “independence.”

As for the four-member ethics panel, Emanuel said there are no sacred cows. The panel has carte blanch to look at everything.

That includes examining the work of the city’s do-nothing Board of Ethics and empowering the IG to investigate aldermen instead of letting the City Council have its own sleuth with his hands tied behind his back.

The ethics panel could also entertain the idea of making alderman a full-time job or even cutting the City Council in half. That’s a controversial subject that Emanuel broached with aldermen during the transition that must either be approved by the state Legislature or by voters in a binding referendum.

The task force will be chaired by Cindi Canary, former director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. The other members are former state senator, comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch; former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta and Ald. Will Burns (4th).



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