Emanuel yet to meet with Ferguson over IG job — or anything else
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 16, 2013 2:08PM
City Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson. | Sun-Times Media File
Updated: August 19, 2013 1:53PM
Under mounting pressure to re-appoint the fiercely independent inspector general he inherited, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued Tuesday to hide behind a selection process for future IGs that his own ethics reform commission never intended to force Joe Ferguson to re-apply for his current job.
“The ordinance says what the ordinance says. I do believe in the process,” Emanuel said.
The mayor hemmed and hawed but didn’t answer when asked why he won’t re-appoint Ferguson when his current four-year term expires in November.
“The fact is, we have a process in place. And I’m always open and he has to — we’re gonna have a conversation ... if he’s interested in even pursuing that,” Emanuel said.
After cutting off a reporter pressing for a definitive answer, the mayor was asked again whether he would consider re-appointing Ferguson rather than forcing him to re-apply for the $161-856-a-year job he has held since 2009.
“I want to be clear about something, which is, the City Council passed an ordinance. Second is, Joe and I have to sit down. He has to tell me of his interest. That hasn’t happened,” he said.
Ferguson said he looks forward to meeting with Emanuel to discuss the mayor’s “intention for the future” of the office.
“No matter who has this job, I think it is important for the Inspector General’s Office to have continuity, not only in its pursuit of eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in Chicago, but also in its oversight of the city’s Shakman compliance efforts,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in a statement.
“In the meantime, we’ll continue in our efforts to help bring City government into the 21st century.”
If Emanuel and Ferguson do have a face-to-face meeting, it will be their first in the 26 months since the new mayor took office. That’s how strained their relationship has been.
It stems from Emanuel’s efforts to block Ferguson’s pursuit of unbridled subpoena power — all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court — and Ferguson’s attempts to audit city programs to verify the mayor’s bold savings claims and hold Emanuel to honor his campaign promises to expand the inspector general’s investigative powers to the City Council, the Public Building Commission and the Chicago Park District.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported June 30 that Ferguson has been told he must re-apply for the inspector general’s job, setting the stage for his exit after two tension-filled years under Emanuel.
Last week, Emanuel argued that the Ethics Reform Commission recommended a process for selecting the next inspector general and he intends to follow it.
To do otherwise, he said, would be to denigrate the work of two of the most prominent reformers in the history of Illinois politics: the late State Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch and Cindi Canary, founder of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
“The insult would be to the public if we didn’t have a process for going forward. That’s where the insult exists,” said Emanuel, denying the mandate was insulting to Ferguson.
But that was before two members of the Ethics Reform Task Force and Ferguson’s predecessor David Hoffman all weighed in to say the city’s newly revised ethics ordinance clearly empowers Emanuel to re-appoint Ferguson.
Emanuel is clearly feeling the heat.
“I believe firmly in — not only in an independent [Inspector General’s] office, but its strength, which is why the budget has never been cut. In fact, it’s been increased,” the mayor said Tuesday.
“Which is why he’s had the independence which I pledged to do to hire who he needs to hire. Which is why the City Council, for the first time ever, has an IG and why every sister agency has an IG.”