Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson is in line to get a second term despite being a thorn in the side of the last two mayors after a key City Council committee endorsed his reappointment Tuesday.
The new four-year term would start next month, but aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel contend that Ferguson plans to serve only an additional year so he can see through a new City Hall hiring protocol aimed at ending decades of federal court oversight.
The decision on whether and when to leave is Ferguson's alone, however, and the City Hall watchdog didn't appear before the Budget and Government Operations Committee at Tuesday's hearing. The absence, and the lack of discussion, left Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, to quip that it was "one of the fastest appointments ever."
Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, who ran the hearing, noted that Ferguson is routinely questioned during budget hearings that will take place in coming weeks. She went on to criticize Ferguson's recent report on Emanuel's new grid-based garbage pickup system, saying Ferguson did not give the program enough time before questioning the mayor's pronouncement of how much money it would save.
"Everything he says, it's his opinion," Austin said of Ferguson.
Ferguson's fate had been a much-discussed issue at City Hall. Emanuel first had suggested that he planned to ask Ferguson to reapply for his job. That caused something of an uproar among independent aldermen and good-government groups that wanted Ferguson to stay put.
Last month, Emanuel reversed course and announced he would reappoint Ferguson. The mayor said he wanted Ferguson to finish helping put the city in full compliance with the so-called Shakman decree that bars the city from considering politics in most hiring, firing and promotion decisions.
The reappointment also came as the mayor was grappling politically with the recent indictment of former city Comptroller Amer Ahmad, who federal prosecutors in Ohio accused of taking part in a kickback scheme when he was a high-level executive in that state's treasurer's office.
Emanuel has enlisted Ferguson, widely respected for his unvarnished independence, to help oversee an audit of the myriad decisions Ahmad took part in at City Hall. Ahmad resigned his post in late July, weeks before he was indicted.
The full council is expected to vote on Ferguson's reappointment on Wednesday.