It’s long been clear that the City Council’s internal watchdog is at odds with many aldermen, but today Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan took a shot at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In his most recent semi-annual report, Khan criticizes Emanuel for not giving the legislative inspector general’s office more money, saying he expected as much from aldermen but not the mayor.
“Being spurned by City Council was not a surprise; it does not take a cynic to recognize this (budget) allotment was in fact designed as an intentional obstruction to limit the abilities and resources of this agency,” Khan said in his report. “But the failure of the mayor’s office to act has sent an alarmingly demoralizing message about where the importance of ethics oversight stands within this city.”
Khan’s office has a yearly budget of $354,000, with most of it going to pay Khan, who works for the council on a contract basis without benefits. Khan said he has almost spent that amount so far this year and plans to ask for more to finish out 2014.
In response, city spokeswoman Shannnon Breymaier noted the mayor’s successful effort to get out from under the watchful eye of a federal court monitor on hiring issues and his cooperation with city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, though Ferguson and Emanuel had major differences on the scope of Ferguson’s authority that were decided in the mayor’s favor by the Illinois Supreme Court.
“The mayor has been actively working to ensure every part of government has meaningful and comprehensive independent oversight,” Breymaier said in an email statement. “Just as the city has worked to improve this oversight for its executive departments and sister agencies, the City Council has the responsibility to work through any issues with their IG.”
It initially had been recommended that the city inspector general’s authority be extended to the council, but aldermen balked at that and created a separate office with much more limited authority and significantly less funding.
Khan has maintained that the limits placed on his office — such as requiring a signed, sworn complaint and approval from the Board of Ethics to proceed with a probe — have prevented him from maintaining adequate oversight of aldermen. A limited budget also has the same effect, he maintains.
Aldermen have long been critical about Khan’s job performance, but tensions flared in late July. The council voted 42-6 to give the Board of Ethics the power to investigate aldermanic campaign finances without a signed, sworn complaint. Khan had sought that authority, but didn’t get it.
The move came as Khan was investigating the campaign finances of Ald. Patrick O’Connor, 40th, who is Emanuel’s council floor leader. Without the authority to initiate his own probes, Khan cannot look beyond the allegations specifically outlined in the complaint filed against O’Connor.
In his report for the first half of the year, Khan also alleges several cases of aldermanic ethics violations, saying all of the cases were referred to the Board of Ethics, which has the power to sanction aldermen.
One aldermen, his chief of staff and an office manager improperly required staff to do campaign work while getting paid by the city and during hours when they had time off, Khan alleged. One of the staff said she was told she would have to pay the alderman for not completing pages of petition signatures to get on the ballot.
In another case, a chief of staff to an alderman improperly borrowed $4,000 from two constituents, Khan wrote. In a separate case, an aldermen improperly demanded $450 from one homeowner to compensate her neighbor for damage caused by contractors who damaged the neighbor’s home, Khan wrote.
And Khan alleged that an alderman allowed renovation work to be done on her ward office without building permits.
There were no names attached to any of the cases.
Khan said that during the first half of the year he “referred 19 matters to other jurisdictions.” In a news release, he thanked the “United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Illinois attorney general’s office and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.”Copyright © 2015, RedEye