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Inspector General For City Council Has Many Limits

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Chicago City Council Chambers (CBS)

Chicago City Council Chambers (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The City Council’s official watchdog is taking his place with high hopes, but his hands pretty much tied.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, a Council committee has approved the nomination of New York attorney Faisal Khan.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

He is willing to become Legislative Inspector General despite the fact that it is only part-time position with no staff and little budget.

Khan can only investigate complaints against aldermen and their staff if there is a sworn complaint by someone willing to go public, or if the aldermen on the Rules Committee agree, or the Board of Ethics – which is not known for being aggressive.

Some aldermen say this might be a severe limit on the Inspector General’s power.

“Any complaint not signed, and the person’s not willing to sign, goes to the Rules Committee,” Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) explained. This means aldermen would have to approve the investigation of other aldermen.

Ald. Timothy Cullerton (38th) also says the Inspector General’s powers don’t go far enough.

“I worked for the city for 33 years. I think that the people that sit in this chamber and work for us can be held to the same standards that our city employees are held to,” he said.

But Khan is shrugging off the concerns.

“To be honest, I don’t consider any of that stuff,” Khan said. “My responsibilities are clear here based on the ordinance, and that’s to investigate allegations of fraud or misconduct against aldermen and aldermen’s staff, and what the Board of Ethics has done on the past, or has not done in the past, is frankly not in my consideration of why I took this position.”

Khan is a former inspector general for the New York City Department of Investigations, and was a former assistant district attorney.

City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has long maintained that his office should oversee investigations of the City Council, but the body elected instead to hire a separate watchdog.

The Council began putting out applications for the new post on April 1, after voting nearly a year earlier to create the position.

The selection panel was chaired by former Cook County Circuit Court Judge Julia Nowicki, who was once the monitor for the city’s compliance with the Shakman decree against political hiring.

Backers have said a City Council inspector general won’t simply do the mayor’s bidding, but critics have said the inspector general will be too close to the Council to be effective.

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