by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer


CHICAGO (CBS) — Two months after banning themselves from working as paid lobbyists, Chicago aldermen on Thursday backed another change to the city’s ethics rules, tightening the reins on when city employees can moonlight for private contractors.

The City Council Ethics Committee signed off on an ordinance that would prohibit any city official or employee with contract oversight from working for subcontractors or consultants on any contract they oversee.

Chicago Board of Ethics executive director Steve Berlin said the city already bars employees who manage city contracts from having any ownership interest or employment with prime contractors they oversee.

The change would prohibit city employees from having any paid work for the subcontractors or consultants on contracts they manage, even if they don’t have an ownership interest.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) voted in favor of the ordinance after asking if city employees would be allowed to recuse themselves from overseeing contracts involving companies where they already have a side job if that private firm ends up as a subcontractor on a city project.

“My concern is are we going to lose people, good people that we have working for the city because of this? As long as they can recuse theirself in a situation like that, that cures it. I think that’s fine,” he said.

Berlin said recusal would be an option in those kinds of situations, but only on a case-by case basis.

“If the employment relationship was pre-existing before this company became a subcontractor, then it would seem to me it would only be fair to say to the city employee ‘Now you have to make a choice,’” Berlin said.

In that situation, Berlin said a city employee could choose to keep contract oversight of the company, but quit their side job for the firm, or keep their side job and give up oversight of the contract.

The ordinance now goes to the full City Council for a final vote, likely at its next meeting on Wednesday.