Sandi Jackson joins City Council’s Hall of Shame
BY ANDY SHAW Better Government Association February 23, 2013 9:20AM
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:40AM
Fred Hubbard. Joseph Jambrone. Joseph Potempa. Casimir Stasczuk. Tom Keane. Frank Kuta. Paul Wigoda. Matt Danaher. Ed Scholl. Donald Swinarski. Stanley Zydlo. William Carothers. Lou Farina. Tyrone Kenner. Chester Kuta. Wallace Davis. Cliff Kelley. Perry Hutchinson. Marian Humes. Bill Henry. Fred Roti. Ambrosio Medrano. Allan Streeter. Joseph Kotlarz. Joesph Martinez. Jesse Evans. Larry Bloom. John Madrzyk. Virgil Jones. Percy Giles. Jim Laski. Arenda Troutman. Ed Vrolyak. Ike Carothers.
And now, Sandi Jackson.
Roll call for inductees into Chicago’s “Hall of Shame” — 35 ex-aldermen who’ve been nailed for corruption since 1973.
So you might think that, in the spirit of self-preservation if nothing else, aldermen would embrace enough reform measures to placate an exercised electorate.
In fact, their fear of a powerful watchdog is so palpable it reeks.
First, they rejected a proposal by ex-mayor Richard Daley to extend the power of the administrative inspector general to the legislative branch. That’s the most effective and efficient way to curb bad behavior and restore public confidence because Daley gave the administrative IG enough tools to be a strong watchdog with a loud bark and sharp teeth.
So strong, in fact, Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently challenges the inspector general’s authority and jurisdiction, like Daley did. No surprise, then, craven Council members rejected that idea.
Instead, the aldermen hemmed and hawed until two years ago, when they finally jerry-rigged a new position of legislative inspector general to resemble a Rube Goldberg contraption.
The job is part-time, with no budget for staff or even an office, and no independent investigative power. The ultimate lap dog.
Then, after stalling for another year, the council added insult to injury by hiring a New York lawyer as legislative IG at an hourly rate of $250, inadvertently making him the city’s highest-paid official when all the billable hours of lap-dogging were submitted: $260,000.
You can’t make this stuff up.
But it gets even worse.
Emanuel appointed a task force to rewrite the city’s limp-wristed, ineffectual ethics code, and a new Ethics Board to replace the do-nothing old one.
But a funny thing happened on Rahm’s Road to Reform: It crashed into — what else — the City Council, where aldermen rejected a proposal to give the legislative IG authority to investigate anonymous complaints.
Council members whined that anonymity would invite a flood of damaging, politically motivated allegations, but that’s easily countered by keeping the complaints confidential, and made public only if investigations uncover actual misconduct or corruption.
What aldermen really fear is the power of anonymity to protect whistleblowers so they’ll come forward without worrying about political retribution. That’s a key to exposing and fighting corruption.
But the aldermanic re-write now says complaints have to be signed, and complainants who knowingly make false accusations can be punished.
So we’re left with an overpaid, underequipped legislative IG who’s enfeebled by a whistleblower protocol more chilling than a meat freezer.
In 1955, legendary pol Paddy Bauler uttered the infamous line that “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.”
Fifty-eight years, thirty-five corrupt aldermen and one lame ethics bill later the City Council, shamefully, still ain’t ready.
Andy Shaw is President & CEO of the Better Government Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-386-9097.