An effort to overhaul Chicago’s ethics rules and finally end the deluge of corruption at City Hall is set to be heard at 10 a.m. Wednesday – nearly three months after it was introduced and hit a wall Mayor Lori Foot’s opposition brickwork.
The Ethics and Government Oversight Committee is due to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to consider a revised version of the proposal drafted by Ald. Michele Smith, chair of the panel, and endorsed by the Chicago Ethics Board.
However, a spokesperson for Smith declined in a statement to WTTW News to detail changes to the proposal until the legal department reviews the revised measure.
The original proposal remains in legislative limbo after Lightfoot ordered his Chicago City Council allies to use parliamentary procedure at the May 25 city council meeting to block Smith from holding a hearing on the matter.
Lightfoot and Smith entered negotiations on the proposal after Chicago Ethics Council Chairman William Conlon said June 13 that the reform package should be “quickly” passed by the city council and signed into law. Smith could have asked his city council colleagues in June to send the original proposal to his committee for a hearing, but took no action after saying the mayor had pledged to support the revised proposal.
However, Lightfoot declined to tell WTTW News which provisions of the measure she wanted changed, and she stopped short of pledging to support passage of a revised proposal championed by her hand-picked choice to lead the ethics committee.
To resuscitate his proposal, Smith plans to present the revised measure directly to his committee, which could vote to send the proposal to the full city council meeting on July 20 for a final vote. Approval from the mayor’s office is usually required to circumvent the normal legislative process, as is proposed in this case.
This sets up the ethics committee to hold a hearing, and potentially a key vote, on a major overhaul of the city’s government ethics ordinance without giving members of the public or the news media the opportunity to review its provisions prior to formal member action. of the City Council.
During the 2019 campaign, Lightfoot campaigned on a platform that promised to root out corruption from mayor’s office by increasing transparency.
Aldus. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), who is running against Lightfoot for mayor, blocked the initial proposal from moving forward in April because he said he had not had enough time to consider it before voting to allow him to proceed to a hearing and a potential vote. Since then, Sawyer has signed on as the measure’s co-sponsor, along with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd arrondissement), one of the mayor’s closest allies.
Smith typically votes with the mayor on high-profile issues, including his annual budget proposals as well as his recent push to expand and extend the city’s teen curfew. But the North Side alderman was one of seven city council members to vote against Lightfoot’s choice of Bally to build a casino along the Chicago River in River West.
The issue of ethics reform has almost completely disappeared from the mayor’s agenda amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and a public safety crisis that has propelled violent crime to the highest levels. raised in almost 25 years.
It’s also unclear why Lightfoot wouldn’t support Smith’s proposal in an election year and use it as an opportunity to burnish her credentials as a reformer.
The initial proposal would increase the maximum fine for violating the city’s ethics ordinance from $5,000 to $20,000 as part of an effort to address the seemingly intractable legacy of corruption and mismanagement. from Chicago.
The initial measure would also increase the number of companies doing business with the city that would be limited to paying a candidate $1,600 per year to include contractors earning more than $10,000 within 12 months, as well as those who deal with sister city agencies. like Chicago Public Schools.
In addition, the measure would expand city rules against nepotism to prevent city officials or employees from taking actions that benefit their domestic partner or loved ones and would prohibit businesses from hiring relatives of city officials. the city to circumvent the rules, according to the proposal.
The initial proposal also targets the functioning of the city council and would ban former aldermen who work as lobbyists from the council chamber floor. This provision seems to target the old Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) who works as a lobbyist and has been a frequent fixture at meetings since his defeat in 2019.
The proposal would also require aldermen to physically leave the council committee room during discussions and votes on matters where they have an interest and have recused themselves. A similar change proposed by the ethics committee in 2019 was rejected.
Read the original proposal.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]