I introduced two pieces of legislation at yesterday’s City Council meeting that would support and expand Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s authority and office.
The ordinances would provide the Inspector General a guaranteed budget of at least one-tenth of one percent of overall City spending and allow him to partner with state and federal law enforcement agencies so that he can participate in asset recovery on behalf of City taxpayers.
The Inspector General’s current budget constitutes approximately one-tenth of one percent of the Cities entire budget, but currently nothing prevents the Mayor or City Council from reducing that amount. My proposal would lock in that percentage as a ‘budgetary floor” and thus protect the Inspector General’s Office from retaliatory budget cuts imposed by current or future mayors or city councils.
I first proposed a budgetary floor for the Inspector General’s Office back in 2009. Unfortunately, the proposal met with strong resistance from then-Mayor Richard Daley and remained stalled in committee.
I’m pleased to report that, unlike his predecessor, Mayor Emanuel supports my revived proposal. In addition, 17 aldermen have signed on as co-sponsors, including several influential committee chairs. Their support of the measure helps guarantee insuring its passage.
My second proposal will enhance the Inspector General’s ability to recover assets on behalf of City taxpayers. Currently, the Inspector General is not able to participate in asset recovery, a situation that Inspector General Ferguson has referred to as a “missed opportunity.”
A long-running federal prosecution that concluded earlier this year arose from a joint investigation by the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office into a cable television installation business. The prosecution resulted in prison sentences and a $2.2 million forfeiture judgment. Collection on forfeiture judgments, such as this, are shared among all of the participating law enforcement organizations, but not the Inspector General’s Office. My proposed ordinance would remedy this situation and allow the Inspector General to share in the recovery of future forfeiture judgments.
I worked with the Mayor and the Inspector General’s office in drafting the language for this ordinance. The same aldermen who signed onto the budgetary floor ordinance are co-sponsors for this ordinance, as well.
These measures, if adopted, will ensure the functioning of an effective, independent Inspector General’s Office.
An ordinance I co-sponsored last month to expand the City Inspector General’s authority to investigate aldermen and eliminate the unprofessional and wasteful Legislative Inspector General’s Office has been stalled as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Legislative Inspector General last month against the City and certain members of the City Council. The City’s Corporation Counsel expects the lawsuit will be dismissed by the courts, but until then, the legislation cannot move forward.
I will keep you apprised on the progress of all of this legislation.