LET INSPECTOR GENERAL INVESTIGATE ALDERMAN
Chicago Sun-Times, March 12, 2009
Back in 1989, it was just another punch line to the running joke that was the Chicago City Council.
Aldermen had approved creating an inspector general post to combat waste and fraud in city government — but excluded themselves from being investigated.
Nearly 20 years later, Ald. Joe Moore is introducing an ordinance to close that loophole, and just as important, strengthen the inspector general’s independence.
The current inspector general, David Hoffman, is doing a great job. Mayor Daley is none too fond of him, and that’s the way it should be.
But Hoffman needs all the help he can get. Under Moore’s proposal, the inspector general could investigate aldermen, and he would be guaranteed an annual budget of no less than .15 percent of the city’s total budget appropriation. This would keep Hoffman’s budget safe from political retaliation.
Right now, the inspector general has a budget of about $5.8 million. Moore’s proposal would roughly increase that by 50 percent.
In these brutal economic times, we are loath to advocate any more government spending. But Hoffman likely would use most of the money to add a few dozen auditors, and auditors give taxpayers a great bang for their buck.
By uncovering waste and fraud, auditors save taxpayers money.
Moore’s proposal comes as Hoffman’s four-year term as inspector general is expiring. The mayor has grudgingly acknowledged that Hoffman can stay for another term, but Hoffman hasn’t said what he’ll do.
Whether Hoffman stays or goes — and we hope he stays — he won’t be in the job forever. That’s why another part of Moore’s proposal makes good sense. When the inspector general’s job becomes open, an outside committee, made up of independent folks such as the U.S. attorney and the Chicago head of the FBI, would present three candidates to the mayor.
Currently, the mayor just chooses whom he wants.
In the coming weeks, we’ll keep you posted on how Moore’s proposal fares. It gives aldermen the perfect way to show voters they care about cleaning up city government — or at least that they can pretend to care.
We’ll tell you which aldermen get behind the ordinance and which ones don’t.
In recent years, the City Council has wanted to be taken more seriously. Moore’s ordinance is a step in that direction.
Even Cook County commissioners, for Pete’s sake, allow their inspector general to investigate them.