Chicago aldermen today moved closer to agreeing not to hire workers who had been fired by the city for misconduct or left City Hall while facing allegations later deemed credible.
The Committee on Workforce Development and Audit recommended making aldermanic compliance with the do-not-hire list mandatory. They did so by endorsing an “order” barring the city’s Department of Human Resources from placing on the City Council payroll anyone who is on the list.
If the council approves the recommendation next week, aldermen would effectively be banned from that point on from hiring people on the do-not-hire list, city officials said.
The issue came up in June, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration agreed to close a loophole that allowed people on the do-not-hire list to get work at other government agencies controlled by the mayor, including Chicago Public Schools, the CTA and Park District.
He did so as part of his successful effort to get out from under the so-called Shakman consent decree that kept City Hall hiring under the watchful eye of the federal courts. That decades-old decree, named for attorney Michael Shakman, bans the consideration of political factors in the hiring, firing, promotion and disciplining of the bulk of City Hall employees.
When former federal court monitor Noelle Brennan concluded the city had done enough to be trusted to police its own hiring, she noted that the council, which was not part of the 1972 city decree, had not agreed to abide by the do-not-hire list.
Although aldermen suggested they were unaware that was a concern of the federal monitor, federal court records show Brennan in December 2010 wrote to former Ald. Helen Shiller, 46th, who was chairman of the Human Relations Committee, and Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th.
Tunney said today that the letter should have gone to the Rules Committee, not the Human Relations Committee that deals with issues of discrimination, not employment. Shiller forwarded the letter to the Rules Committee, then controlled by former Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, Tunney said.
Earlier that year, she noted in a report that developing city policy on the do-not-hire list “does not prevent City Council from hiring individuals who were on” the list. It cited a couple of instances in which former employees accused of sexual harassment were hired by aldermen.
The council controls more than 200 full-time jobs with an overall payroll of more than $14.6 million, according to the city budget. That does not include expense accounts, which some aldermen tap to hire additional workers, that allow for a total of up to $4.85 million in additional spending.
The Tribune in 2009 documented how aldermen used a $1.3 million stealth payroll to make questionable hires, including relatives, friends and political allies. One aldermen hired a person placed on the do-not-hire list after being accused of sexual harassment.
Although this year's city budget eliminated that account, it increased the expense accounts by nearly $1.2 million, allowing a maximum allowance for each aldermen of $97,000, up from $73,280.
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