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Spat May Be Brewing Between U.S. Attorney’s Office, City Council Finance Committee

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The Chicago City Council (Credit: CBS)

conway250 Bob Conway
Bob Conway joined WBBM Newsradio 780 in August of 2000 as a part time...
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UPDATED 08/15/12 10:31 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A legal battle may be brewing between the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Chicago City Council Finance Committee.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, it all started when city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson asked the committee chairman, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), for records dealing with the duty disability program, according to a Chicago Tribune report. The program handles workers’ compensation claims for city employees, with the exception of police and fire personnel.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports

The request was rejected with committee personnel, saying it was outside the Inspector General’s jurisdiction.

But now, the Tribune reports a federal grand jury has subpoenaed the records, with a spokesman saying the committee is cooperating.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the records would be made available to City Council Inspector General Faisal Khan.

But the Tribune points out that the City Council Inspector General’s office may not have the resources or the authority for such an investigation.

The position of City Council Inspector General was created last year, as a means of fending off a push by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to give Ferguson oversight of the City Council, the Tribune pointed out.

Aldermen argued that the city Inspector General is appointed by the mayor and could not be fully independent with respect to the Council, the Tribune reported.

As for the workers’ compensation program, Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw pointed out on WBBM Newsradio that it has been targeted by the U.S. Attorney’s office before.

“I will point out that six years ago, the same thing happened. The federal government subpoenaed records of the same program,” Shaw said. “It has been scandal-plagued for many, many years.”

That probe did not result in any charges.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he supports oversight on workers’ compensation payments as a means of curtailing disability fraud, the Tribune reported.

Shaw questioned why Emanuel did not call for the more sweeping changes in the program.

“Why is he not calling for this program to be moved from the Finance Committee to his own finance office, where presumably, there’s less politics,” Shaw said.

Shaw wondered if there might be an arrangement between the mayor and Ald. Burke, where “Emanuel keeps his hands off the disability program (and) Burke lets Emanuel run the City Council. But he said neither would admit to such an arrangement if it does exist.