Aldermen balk at IG’s request for council employees’ time sheets
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com November 18, 2012 6:44PM
City Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan in his Chicago office. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: December 20, 2012 6:15AM
Chicago aldermen are accusing their handpicked inspector general of overstepping his limited authority — and going fishing — with a demand for time sheets for all full- and part-time City Council employees dating back to November 2010.
The surprise request from Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan — whose annual budget was recently increased to $354,000 — stunned and infuriated aldermen, some of whom are talking about clipping Khan’s wings or eliminating his position altogether.
Khan could not be reached for comment to explain the time-sheet request he made last month. Over the years, aldermen and committee chairmen have been accused of padding their payrolls with relatives, friends and political allies and of the hiring equivalent of “wife-swapping”: placing each other’s spouses and relatives on each other’s payrolls.
Some aldermen are so incensed about the time-sheet request that they’ve confronted Khan and demanded an explanation. Others are going through the motions to comply with his request. Even more have chosen to ignore it and dare Khan to use his subpoena powers if he thinks he has a case to justify a subpoena.
The ordinance that created the legislative inspector general does not empower Khan to conduct audits.
In order to investigate Chicago aldermen, their staff members and committee employees, Khan needs a signed and sworn complaint and prior authorization from the city’s Board of Ethics or sign-off from the City Council’s Rules Committee to investigate an anonymous tip.
“This is beyond the scope of his authority. He’s overstepping his bounds. He’s going too far. This is not what he was placed there to do,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), an attorney. “A lot of aldermen are upset or at least confused about what he’s trying to do. We don’t think this is based on any verified complaint. This is just him fishing or making busy work. If he has an investigation, tell us what it is. If not, collect your check and get out of the way. I don’t see that includes asking for time sheets unless he has a verified complaint.”
Sawyer noted that a $94,000 amendment to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2013 budget increased Khan’s annual budget to $354,000 a year. That’s $294,000 a year more than originally anticipated.
In addition, Emanuel has proposed another round of ethics reforms that would expand Khan’s authority.
He would be empowered to settle cases to speed investigations, initiate his own written complaints and accept “written anonymous complaints” against aldermen and City Council employees.
“The aldermen I talked to don’t want to give him any more power. In fact, aldermen are talking about curtailing his power — possibly by eliminating his position,” Sawyer said.
Another alderman, who asked to remain anonymous, branded Khan a “paper tiger who thinks he has teeth. . . . If the ordinance that empowers him doesn’t give him the right to do something, what’s he doing? It’ll come to loggerheads at some point.” Two years ago, aldermen balked at then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to give the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson to the power to investigate aldermen.
Instead, they created their own inspector general and waited eighteen months — until after the February 2011 aldermanic election — to fill the job.
A year ago, they settled on Khan, a former New York City inspector general, and gave him a $60,000-a-year budget, no staff and investigative ground rules that pretty well tied his hands.
In order to investigate Chicago aldermen, their staff members and committee employees, Khan either needs either a signed and sworn complaint and prior authorization from a Board of Ethics with a do-nothing track record or a sign-off from the City Council’s Rules Committee to investigate an anonymous tip.
The ordinance also includes a two-year statute of limitations, a requirement that investigative subjects be notified within seven days and allows the Board of Ethics to serve as judge and jury after the fact.
At the time, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) warned that Khan would “end up being window dressing” no matter how much “integrity and independence” he may have.
Since then, the legislative IG has seen his annual budget rise to $260,000 for this year and $354,000 for 2013.