CHICAGO (CBS)– For 35 years Alderman Ed Burke, as chairman of the Finance Committee, has controlled Chicago’s Workers’ Compensation Program with virtually no oversight.
Ald. John Arena of the 45th Ward, with support of other members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, introduced an ordinance Wednesday to transfer control of the workers comp program from the Finance Committee to the city’s Corporation Counsel.
“It’s $100 million program that right now the IG cannot do any audits to determine how the decision-making process is made,” Arena said.
“We’re just trying to pair it up with almost every other city in the United States does, which has the workers comp program in the Executive Branch under an HR department that handles these issues,” Ald. Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward said.
In 2012, the city’s Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, formally requested “immediate, unfiltered read-only access to the database(s),” but the request was denied by the Finance Committee.
“There should be no tax payer dollars that are sitting somewhere in the shadows,” Arena said. “They should be brought to light, and if $100 million is an appropriate amount, then we will know that once there is a full audit by the IG.”
Burke did not want to discuss the issue Wednesday, but some aldermen question the motives behind the proposal.
“I think it was a political ploy to just throw something together and try to force some peoples’ hands and I think it was done unjustly,” Ald. Anthony Beale of the 9th Ward said.
The timing, given recent federal raids on Burkes’ offices, also raised some eyebrows.
“This is not about any individual committee member or any council member,” Arena said. “This is a good government move that has been recommended in the past.”
Waguespack said it has been a long-term issue and they want to do the right thing for taxpayers.
The aldermen supporting the ordinance wanted it sent to the budget committee, but instead it was sent to rules committee.