Category Archives: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Can We Trust The Infrastructure Trust?

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust—a new, city-created non-profit that seeks to make possible private financing of public infrastructure projects—recently passed its bylaws.

Those rules include a provision granting the city Inspector General (IG) the authority to investigate actions of the Trust.

However, the Sun-Times editorial board argues this provision may be more show than substance because the actual city ordinance that created and granted power to the Trust did not grant the IG power to investigate it.

For instance, should a contractor or sister city agency refuse to cooperate with the IG, the ordinance outweighs the bylaws, thereby bringing the ability to enforce the bylaws’ IG provision into question.

In addition to sharing concern about the IG’s role in monitoring the trust, the BGA is also questioning the bylaws’ effectiveness in regards to following the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act.

Read the Sun-Times Editorial

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Check Out Chicago’s New Infrastructure Trust Bylaws

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust–a newly-created, city-backed program that aims to find private and public funding for Chicago and related public agency projects–recently held its first meeting.

As a non-profit entity, the Trust will have to file articles of incorporation and bylaws with the state that explain the Trusts purpose and the basic rules it intends to adhere to.

A copy of the proposed bylaws, which the BGA requested, is available below, or by clicking here.

The Infrastructure Trust Board, which governs the trust, plans to vote on the proposed bylaws at its next meeting, scheduled for 10 am on August 28th at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The BGA will evaluate the bylaws but also wants to know what you think about them and invites your comments.

Bylaws of Chicago Infrastructure Trust (PDF)

Bylaws of Chicago Infrastructure Trust (Text)

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BGA to Chicago City Council: Delay Infrastructure Trust Plan

An open letter to aldermen says the Mayor’s blueprint needs greater scrutiny and more public accountability. It urges the City Council to vote no, or to delay and review, the controversial ordinance.

April 17, 2012

Dear Aldermen:

It is the position of the Better Government Association that the ordinance creating the Infrastructure Trust lacks measures to ensure the transparency, oversight and accountability necessary to protect taxpayers and to properly inform the public about the Trust’s motivations and actions.

The BGA urges you to vote “no” on the ordinance creating the Infrastructure Trust or to defer and publish it, which would postpone its passage long enough to allow further review and possible revisions. Here’s why:

More time is needed to understand the scope and scale of the Infrastructure Trust.

The fast-tracking advocated by the Mayor’s office leaves too little time for Aldermen and public interest groups to fully examine and evaluate the ordinance. The revised ordinance from the Mayor’s office—the one you will be called to vote on tomorrow—has only been public since Friday. An ordinance to create a multi-billion dollar trust with taxpayer money deserves a longer period of time between introduction and passage, and public hearings would help Aldermen and citizens understand the merits and pitfalls of the Mayor’s proposal.

The Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act do not apply to the Infrastructure Trust, a non-profit agency.

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) are state statutes that apply only to public bodies. The Illinois Attorney General has jurisdiction over public bodies that fail to comply with the requirements of FOIA and OMA, and a special office (the Public Access Counselor) to assist citizens who are unable to obtain documents via FOIA.

Unlike public bodies, non-profits like the Trust are not subject to Illinois FOIA or OMA. A city ordinance cannot unilaterally extend the authority of the Illinois Attorney General over a non-profit. That means that if the Trust fails to comply with FOIA or OMA, the only recourse is litigation in the courts. Citizens and members of the press submitting FOIA requests to the Trust will not have the protections and assistance offered by the Public Access Counselor, who ensures that public entities comply with FOIA.

The Chicago Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the Infrastructure Trust.

The Chicago Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the Trust because the Trust is a separate entity from the city. To the extent that the Trust enters agreements with the City, the IG could potentially examine those specific agreements. However, the IG’s authority does not extend to deals with related agencies, some of which do not have their own Inspector General. As you know, related city agencies include the Chicago Public Schools, the Housing Authority and the Park District, taxpayer-supported agencies that have great impact on residents’ lives.

For these reasons and more we urge you to vote “no” or move to delay a vote. This is not to denigrate the mayor’s plan but to improve it by adding enough transparency, accountability and oversight measures to avoid another fiasco like the privatization of the parking meters. Let’s go slow and get this one right.

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to email or call Emily Miller, BGA Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator, at emiller@bettergov.org or 773-203-9654; or Robert Reed, BGA Director of Investigations and Programming, at 312-203-5722 or rreed@bettergov.org.

Thank you.

Andy Shaw
President and CEO

Emily Miller
Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator

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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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Filed under Inspector General, Mayor Rahm Emanuel