Category Archives: Inspector General

State’s High Court Hears IG’s Case

The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments recently in a case that will help determine what power the city of Chicago’s main watchdog has to investigate City Hall. The BGA is closely following the case.

http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2012/09/21/watchdog-takes-emanuel-state-supreme-court

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Mayor Emanuel, Inspector General Still Spar Over City Hall Access

In his quarterly report released this week, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson disputed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s use of attorney-client privilege to withhold documents from his office related to current misconduct investigations.

>> Read the IG’s report here.

This is a continuation of an ongoing skirmish between the city’s OIG and Mayor’s office.

Emily Miller, the BGA’s policy and government affairs coordinator, examined the controversy and its impact on government in November. Here is that post:

Toothless Watchdog Won’t Scare Anyone (11/14/11)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Courtesy juggernautco/CC)

By Emily Miller
This Think Tank post was also published Nov. 14, 2011 by HuffingtonPost.com/Chicago. Emily is the BGA’s Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator. Contact her at emiller@bettergov.org. Follow her on Twitter @EJMill.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pulling on the leash of City Hall’s legally designated watchdog, and that could undermine the new mayor’s pledge to make his administration more open, honest and accountable.

Joseph Ferguson, the city’s Inspector General, is at odds with the mayor and his law department over how far the IG’s investigative powers extend into the workings of city government.

This is not a new issue: the latest battle for power between the IG and City Hall began under the Daley administration when Ferguson started looking into a no-bid contract to a former city worker. Rather than handing over the documents Ferguson requested, Daley stonewalled, sparking a legal battle that is now headed for the Illinois Supreme Court.

This Think Tank post was also published in partnership with HuffingtonPost.com/Chicago

The basic issue is whether the IG is truly independent and free to investigate all of city government, including activities of the mayor’s office and the city law department, or just another employee of the mayor, who appoints him, which makes him a subordinate who’s only entitled to the documents and information the boss is willing to provide.

To be a true watchdog — one capable of uncovering and investigating public corruption in Chicago — it has to be the former. The IG must be able to operate independent of and unencumbered by the mayor’s office or the city law department. In the Better Government Association’s view, that means Emanuel and the law department run by corporation counsel Steve Patton should recognize that the IG, under the Chicago Municipal Code, has the investigative authority to request and subpoena information from all of the employees in its jurisdiction, including the mayor and everyone else.

It’s as simple as that.

But in spite of a campaign promise to expand the scope, the power and the budget of the IG, Emanuel’s administration is continuing Daley’s practice of undermining and challenging the IG’s independence and authority.

Corporation Counsel Patton, the mayor’s top lawyer, argues the IG does not have subpoena power over his office and that the IG reports directly to the Office of the Mayor — a statement that, if true, would completely compromise the IG’s ability to independently investigate allegations of any City Hall corruption.

A BGA analysis of the municipal code finds that it clearly gives the IG the power to investigate all elected and appointed officers of city government, as well as employees, programs, and contractors. In the scope of an investigation, the code also gives the IG the authority to subpoena any of those entities.

And contrary to Patton’s argument that the mayor oversees the IG, the code specifically says the Inspector General is ultimately responsible for the operation and management of his office — not the mayor.

The public interest in rooting out corruption in Chicago, along with the statutory authority granted to the IG’s office, far outweighs any argument the city’s legal minds have conjured up to withhold the records Ferguson has requested.

The mayor should follow through on his promise to make Chicago government more transparent by changing his mind and his policy — Emanuel needs to give the IG the independence and power he needs to carry out the duties required of him by law.

A watchdog is only effective when it is truly independent, and when it has the powers and the resources to fully execute its mission. In addition to providing inadequate funding, eliminating a watchdog’s independence and denying him the legal authority to perform his mandated duties are the easiest ways to undercut the office.

In the past, Emanuel and Ferguson have had their disagreements and that’s likely to continue.

But Mayor Emanuel must realize that a toothless, timid watchdog is useless to the people of Chicago. A paper tiger is nothing more than a pussycat. Chicago needs a tiger that can bear its teeth, stretch its claws and even, when necessary, take a bite out of a bad guy.

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Toothless Watchdog Won’t Scare Anyone

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Courtesy juggernautco/CC)

By Emily Miller
This Think Tank post was also published Nov. 14, 2011 by HuffingtonPost.com/Chicago. Emily is the BGA’s Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator. Contact her at emiller@bettergov.org. Follow her on Twitter @EJMill.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pulling on the leash of City Hall’s legally designated watchdog, and that could undermine the new mayor’s pledge to make his administration more open, honest and accountable.

Joseph Ferguson, the city’s Inspector General, is at odds with the mayor and his law department over how far the IG’s investigative powers extend into the workings of city government.

This is not a new issue: the latest battle for power between the IG and City Hall began under the Daley administration when Ferguson started looking into a no-bid contract to a former city worker. Rather than handing over the documents Ferguson requested, Daley stonewalled, sparking a legal battle that is now headed for the Illinois Supreme Court.

This Think Tank post was also published in partnership with HuffingtonPost.com/Chicago

The basic issue is whether the IG is truly independent and free to investigate all of city government, including activities of the mayor’s office and the city law department, or just another employee of the mayor, who appoints him, which makes him a subordinate who’s only entitled to the documents and information the boss is willing to provide.

To be a true watchdog — one capable of uncovering and investigating public corruption in Chicago — it has to be the former. The IG must be able to operate independent of and unencumbered by the mayor’s office or the city law department. In the Better Government Association’s view, that means Emanuel and the law department run by corporation counsel Steve Patton should recognize that the IG, under the Chicago Municipal Code, has the investigative authority to request and subpoena information from all of the employees in its jurisdiction, including the mayor and everyone else.

It’s as simple as that.

But in spite of a campaign promise to expand the scope, the power and the budget of the IG, Emanuel’s administration is continuing Daley’s practice of undermining and challenging the IG’s independence and authority.

Corporation Counsel Patton, the mayor’s top lawyer, argues the IG does not have subpoena power over his office and that the IG reports directly to the Office of the Mayor — a statement that, if true, would completely compromise the IG’s ability to independently investigate allegations of any City Hall corruption.

A BGA analysis of the municipal code finds that it clearly gives the IG the power to investigate all elected and appointed officers of city government, as well as employees, programs, and contractors. In the scope of an investigation, the code also gives the IG the authority to subpoena any of those entities.

And contrary to Patton’s argument that the mayor oversees the IG, the code specifically says the Inspector General is ultimately responsible for the operation and management of his office — not the mayor.

The public interest in rooting out corruption in Chicago, along with the statutory authority granted to the IG’s office, far outweighs any argument the city’s legal minds have conjured up to withhold the records Ferguson has requested.

The mayor should follow through on his promise to make Chicago government more transparent by changing his mind and his policy — Emanuel needs to give the IG the independence and power he needs to carry out the duties required of him by law.

A watchdog is only effective when it is truly independent, and when it has the powers and the resources to fully execute its mission. In addition to providing inadequate funding, eliminating a watchdog’s independence and denying him the legal authority to perform his mandated duties are the easiest ways to undercut the office.

In the past, Emanuel and Ferguson have had their disagreements and that’s likely to continue.

But Mayor Emanuel must realize that a toothless, timid watchdog is useless to the people of Chicago. A paper tiger is nothing more than a pussycat. Chicago needs a tiger that can bear its teeth, stretch its claws and even, when necessary, take a bite out of a bad guy.

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Another TIF Controversy Flares Up in Chicago

New questions are surfacing about Chicago’s implementation of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreements.

An examination by Joseph Ferguson, the city’s Inspector General, claims that $3.7 million in cash contributions was funneled to selected non-profits from private concerns that were beneficiaries of TIF redevelopment deals. The IG report says that $915,000 was funneled to After School Matters, a non-profit founded by former Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley, the wife of ex Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Today, members of the BGA discussed the IG’s report and TIFs on radio and TV broadcasts.

The Inspector General says his report reveals there was a “lack of transparency and accountability in the City’s process of choosing specific non-profit organizations.” It adds that city officials did not have a system for supporting non-profits and instead determined arbitrarily which charities or groups would benefit from TIF-related contributions.

The fact that After School Matters was recipient of 59 percent of the available funds between 2000 and 2009 “undermines public confidence in whether the TIF process is being used appropriately,” according to the IG report.

This is the latest in a series of questions and concerns surrounding the implementation of Chicago-based TIFs. The districts are under fire from some community groups and leaders who are concerned that TIFs are being misused or abused and end up draining needed resources or tax receipts from neighborhood schools and projects.

Recently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that his administration is exploring a number of TIF reforms.

To learn more about Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreements, consult these infographics:

INFOGRAPHIC: How A TIF Works
INFOGRAPHIC: How A TIF Is Created

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Chicago Inspector General Releases 63 ‘Budget Options,’ Proposes $3 Billion in Savings for 2012

Different year. Different administration. Same story: the city of Chicago has a fiscal mess to clean up.

To that end, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson releases a “Budget Options Report” meant to “support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead.”

The report includes some 63 options that would purportedly save upwards of $3 billion. Here are a few examples highlighted by the IG’s office:

  • Reducing the ratio of managers to non-supervisory employees in City government to save more than $100,000,000 annually
  • Eliminating all Tax Increment Financing Districts to increase tax revenues to the City’s general fund by an estimated $100 million annually
  • Increasing the work week of all City employees to 40 hours to save approximately $40 million annually
  • Implement Congestion Pricing for vehicular traffic that is estimated to generate an additional annual revenues of $235 million

Here’s the statement from the IG’s office:

September 26, 2011

Focused on meeting its mandate of promoting efficiency and effectiveness in City government, the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (IGO) today released its annual report of Budget Options for the City.

The IGO’s Budget Options report for the 2012 budget provides a total of 44 separate, stand-alone options to cut spending. This year’s report also includes 19 possible revenue generating options, including new or restructured taxes, tolls, and fees. In total, the 63 options detailed in the report provide background for nearly $3 billion in possible savings or new revenue for the City. Each option includes a brief overview of how proponents and opponents might argue each option, as well as a new section that notes important questions and discussion topics for the public and decision makers.

“In last year’s report, we provided data and analysis explaining that Chicago’s budget was fundamentally broken” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “One year later, the situation remains difficult. The new Administration has candidly acknowledged the fiscal mess it inherited and has publicly committed itself to fixing it. This report is meant to support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead.”

The list of options is not meant to be an exhaustive one, and the inclusion of any option in this report is not, and should not be, construed as an endorsement by the IGO. The IGO intends to use public feedback and official responses to the report in order to provide periodic updates and corrections to this year’s report.

>> To view the online version of the budget options, which will include updates, and post your comments on the options go here.

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Filed under Fiscal Reform, Inspector General, Streamlining Government, TIFs

Chicagoland Transit Agencies on Track for Gov’t-Approved Watchdog

Amid the confusion and chaos of this week’s legislative session in Springfield, the House and Senate passed a groundbreaking bill targeting the fraud, waste and corruption that plagues the Chicago area’s mass transit systems.

The bill’s supporters expect the Governor to approve the measure.

The Better Government Association has been working with Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), good-government advocates and the RTA to craft legislation that creates an independent inspector general for the transit agency that oversees the RTA, Metra, PACE and CTA.

The resulting bill, Senate Bill 3964, was co-sponsored by Sen. Garret and Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), and creates an independent inspector general to oversee the boards and employees at RTA, Metra, PACE, and CTA.

The inspector general will be housed in the Office of the Executive Inspector General, which already oversees the activities of the Governor’s office and its agencies.

Sen. Garrett has been working on the legislation with leaders at the transit agencies since last spring when news reports emerged detailing how Metra’s Executive Director Phil Pagano gave himself unapproved payouts on future vacation time. The unauthorized payout of $56,000 came on top of his salary of more than $250,000.

Ultimately, questions surrounding Pagano’s actions lead to his suspension. In May 2010, Pagano, 60, was found dead of an apparent suicide.

The BGA is committed to eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources. This legislation is an important step toward making the Chicago area’s mass transit systems more open and accountable.

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Filed under CTA, Inspector General, Legislative Update, Metra, Pace, RTA

County, City Watchdogs Push for Major Budget Cost Cuts, Lay-offs

Today, two watchdog groups released reports related to streamlining County and City government:

  • The Chicago Office of the Inspector General released a report outlining their suggestions for budget cuts the City can make to promote “economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity in the operations of the City government.” CLICK HERE to download the PDF.
  • The Civic Federation released a Cook County Modernization Report: A Roadmap for Cook County Government. The report offers short and long term recommendations the Federation hopes will make the County “more efficient, less costly and more accountable.” CLICK HERE to download the PDF.

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Filed under Inspector General, Streamlining Government