WBEZ | Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-inspector-general-joe-ferguson Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago police union president suspended http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-union-president-suspended-109405 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP330493917876.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police has suspended the head of Chicago&rsquo;s police union, one day after he accused fellow union leaders of scheming with City Hall and arbitrators to &ldquo;fix&rdquo; police contracts.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago FOP Lodge 7 President Michael Shields was apparently suspended during a union meeting Tuesday night. On Monday, Shields sent a letter to the city&rsquo;s inspector general accusing four current and past union leaders of colluding with independent arbitrators and city negotiators to hold contract arbitrations that were &ldquo;manipulated and phony.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The letter was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, and later leaked to other media outlets, including WBEZ.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;As many of you are aware, this past Monday, Lodge President Michael K. Shields publicly accused respected arbitrators, City and FOP labor lawyers, and present and former Lodge officials of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud during past contract negotiations,&rdquo; reads a <a href="http://www.chicagofop.org/lodge-7-presidents-status/">statement</a> on the Chicago union&rsquo;s website.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Due to the recent actions of President Shields, Illinois State FOP Lodge President Ted Street was forced to suspend President Shields&rsquo; &lsquo;membership rights, duties and authority and therefore is suspended as President of Chicago FOP Lodge #7,&rsquo; pending a hearing before the State Lodge Board of Trustees,&rdquo; the statement reads.</p><p dir="ltr">Street did not return phone calls seeking further details.</p><p dir="ltr">Tuesday night&rsquo;s police union meeting was apparently tense enough that someone called the police to keep the peace.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;After a call for service was received, a sergeant and two officers were dispatched to the scene to ensure that order and safety was maintained, but, at no point, did CPD interfere with the business of the union,&rdquo; Chicago Police Department spokesman Adam Collins said.</p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with WBEZ earlier on Wednesday, Shields denied that he had been suspended and maintained he was still acting as president of the Chicago FOP lodge.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I brought to light information to the inspector general regarding past practices of [former President] Mark Donohue, [First Vice President] Bill Dougherty, [Financial Secretary] Rich Aguilar and [former Third Vice President] Greg Bella,&rdquo; Shields told WBEZ, referring the the four union leaders he accused of rigging contracts. &ldquo;Now [they] are retaliating against me by having their close friend, Ted Street, &nbsp;attempt to take action against me, which is 100 percent illegal and the truth will come out about those four.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Despite Shields&rsquo; earlier claim that he was still in charge, the statement from the Illinois FOP later Wednesday afternoon said Dougherty will serve as acting union president.</p><p dir="ltr">Contract arbitrations occur when one side in a negotiation declares an impasse. Outside arbitrators are supposed to mediate the dispute as an independent third party, then issue a legally binding decision.</p><p dir="ltr">But in Monday&rsquo;s letter to Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson, Shields claimed the four union leaders &ldquo;rigged&rdquo; at least two contract arbitrations in order to gain &ldquo;political cover against FOP members&rsquo; potential accusations that the FOP leadership had &lsquo;sold out&rsquo; to the City of Chicago.&rdquo; He also claimed the head of the police sergeants&rsquo; union played ball with City Hall during &ldquo;phony&rdquo; contract talks.</p><p dir="ltr">Shields did not cite any specific evidence to back up his claims in the letter, or during later interviews with WBEZ. He said he was told of the schemes by the union&rsquo;s top lawyer, Paul Geiger. Geiger did not return phone calls seeking comment.</p><p dir="ltr">The police union&rsquo;s public flap comes just a few months before Shields was to stand for re-election as lodge president. He&rsquo;s taken heat this year for <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/22196864-418/story.html">missing two deadlines</a> that could cost rank-and-file cops their retroactive pay raises, as the union continues to negotiate a new contract with the city.</p><p dir="ltr">Aguilar denied the accusations in the letter were true. The head of the Chicago Police Sergeants&rsquo; Association, Jim Ade, said Shields&rsquo; claims were &ldquo;baseless.&rdquo; Bella, Dougherty and Donahue did not return phone calls from WBEZ.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @akeefe.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 16:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-union-president-suspended-109405 Despite clashes with city hall, corruption watchdog sails toward reconfirmation http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/joe_ferguson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A panel of Chicago aldermen quickly voted on Tuesday to reappoint the City Hall watchdog to another four-year term, despite his previous public clashes with Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration.</p><p>The unanimous vote by aldermen on the Budget and Government Operations committee sets up Inspector General Joseph Ferguson for a final confirmation vote at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting.</p><p>Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said any bad blood between the Inspector General and the mayor&rsquo;s office should not be a mark against Ferguson.</p><p>&ldquo;If he&rsquo;s disagreeable with the mayor or the City Council, that suggests to me perhaps he&rsquo;s doing his job,&rdquo; Reilly said after Tuesday&rsquo;s vote.</p><p>Ferguson was not present at Tuesday&rsquo;s meeting, when it took aldermen all of six seconds to sign off on his reappointment. A spokeswoman for Ferguson, Rachel Leven, declined to comment on the vote.</p><p>Emanuel <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590" target="_blank">announced last month</a> that he would re-appoint Ferguson, with the understanding that the former federal prosecutor-turned-corruption fighter would leave his post next summer. Legally, Ferguson&rsquo;s reappointment would allow him to stay on for the full four-year term, but he has said he plans to &ldquo;move on to other things.&rdquo;</p><p>The mayor had earlier insisted Ferguson must reapply for his job when his term runs out at the end of November, but Emanuel changed his mind after the two men met, face-to-face, in late August.</p><p>Since being appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009, Ferguson has greatly expanded the role of his office. Instead of solely attacking fraud and corruption by city workers, Ferguson has also tried to beef up his role as a fiscal watchdog during a time when Chicago has faced historic budget deficits.</p><p>But Ferguson&rsquo;s also hasn&rsquo;t been shy about issuing reports critical of how Emanuel carries out some&nbsp; signature policies - or about calling out the mayor&rsquo;s administration when it doesn&rsquo;t cooperate with investigations.</p><p>In July, the Inspector General <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/publications-and-press/press-releases/igo-precluded-from-auditing-citys-grid-based-garbage-collection-system/" target="_blank">published a report</a> detailing how one Emanuel deputy abruptly left a meeting when auditors tried to ask him about the city&rsquo;s new ward-by-ward trash collection, which the mayor says will save $18 million a year. Emanuel later said said the system was still being rolled out, and wasn&rsquo;t ready for an audit.</p><p>The two offices have also clashed about whether the IG&rsquo;s office should be kept out of the city&rsquo;s political budget-making process, and whether Ferguson should be allowed to enforce his own subpoenas in investigations. The subpoena fight eventually wound up before the Illinois Supreme Court, where justices ultimately ruled that the inspector general must rely upon the mayor&rsquo;s lawyers to legally enforce subpoenas, even if the subpoenas were part of a probe into the mayor&rsquo;s office itself.</p><p>Ferguson&rsquo;s final confirmation seems likely on Wednesday, said 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, the chair of the Budget Committee. But Austin hopes Ferguson will engage the City Council more often during his second term, instead of leaving aldermen to hear about his reports first from the media.</p><p>&ldquo;Since his appointment comes in my committee, I think that we should have had - or should have been having - regular dialogue,&rdquo; Austin said Tuesday. &ldquo;But he vets everything in the public, as opposed to vetting anything with me at all. So I have [an] issue with that.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him at <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Oct 2013 15:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 Despite disagreements, Emanuel to reappoint City Hall watchdog http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP987948130184.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Despite months of public disagreements with his City Hall watchdog, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will reappoint Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to another term, the mayor&rsquo;s office confirmed Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">The announcement is an about-face for Emanuel, who had earlier insisted that Ferguson must reapply for the job when his term runs out in November. But Emanuel apparently changed his mind following a face-to-face meeting between the two men on Friday.</p><p>&quot;Friday morning, I met with Inspector General Joe Ferguson and we had a positive and fruitful discussion,&quot; Emanuel was quoted as saying in a statement. &quot;I am pleased to accept the Inspector General&#39;s offer to stay on through next summer and complete the important work currently underway. I look forward to working with Joe to see the City to full Shakman compliance and end four decades of federal hiring oversight. The Inspector General and I share the same underlying goal: protecting the taxpayers of the city of Chicago. We both will continue to work tirelessly on their behalf.&quot;</p><p>A handful of Chicago aldermen have been calling on Emanuel to reappoint Ferguson. Even though city law would have allowed him do that, Emanuel had maintained that Ferguson must go through the same committee vetting process as any new inspector general candidate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Mayor and I had a very productive discussion and I thank him for agreeing to allow me to continue to work on wrapping up some unfinished projects, most notably achieving Shakman compliance and fully implementing the administration&rsquo;s ethics reform bill,&quot; Ferguson was quoted as saying in a statement to WBEZ Tuesday morning. &quot;I expect we can do that by the end of the summer and then I plan to move on to other things.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago inspectors general are appointed to four-year terms, so if Ferguson is reconfirmed by the City Council, he could conceivably stay on longer.</p><div>Some tension is to be expected between an inspector general, charged with rooting out government waste and fraud, and the politicians and bureaucrats he watches over. But the pitch of the feud between the city Inspector General&rsquo;s Office and the Fifth Floor has grown louder in recent months.</div><p dir="ltr">In July, the Inspector General&rsquo;s Office published a <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/publications-and-press/press-releases/igo-precluded-from-auditing-citys-grid-based-garbage-collection-system/">report</a> detailing how one Emanuel deputy stormed out of the room when auditors with the IG&rsquo;s office tried to ask him questions about the city&rsquo;s new ward-by-ward trash collection, which Emanuel&rsquo;s administration claims will save $18 million a year.</p><p dir="ltr">In April, Ferguson <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705">accused</a> the Emanuel administration of hampering its investigations by refusing to support changes to the law that would insulate the IG&rsquo;s office from the political budget process, and allow it to enforce its own subpoenas.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel responded by suggesting Ferguson had all the authority he needed to do his job well.</p><p dir="ltr">The fight over subpoena power climbed all the way to Illinois Supreme Court. In March, the justices ruled that only the mayor&rsquo;s administration may enforce subpoenas issued by the inspector general, even if the people or offices under investigation are in the mayor&rsquo;s administration.</p><p dir="ltr">But the recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/former-chicago-comptroller-charged-bribery-fraud-ohio-108437">indictment</a> of Chicago&rsquo;s former comptroller, Amer Ahmad, have spurred the two offices to cooperate. Ferguson is working with Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyer to oversee a third-party review of Ahmad&rsquo;s time at City Hall, though the federal charges against him stem from his earlier job as Deputy Treasurer for the State of Ohio.</p><p dir="ltr">If Ferguson accepts the reappointment, he would need to be reconfirmed by a vote of the City Council.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Sep 2013 09:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590 Watchdog: Emanuel hamstrings probes of waste, fraud http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall watchdog on Wednesday threatened to publicly call out Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration whenever it refuses to cooperate with investigations, suggesting the mayor is reinforcing &ldquo;deep-seated doubts&rdquo; about a city with a long history of public corruption.</p><p>The comments from Inspector General Joe Ferguson, written in his latest quarterly report, is the latest chapter in his struggle with the Emanuel administration over whether the watchdog agency can enforce its own subpoenas on city officials.</p><p>Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Ferguson must rely on Emanuel&rsquo;s administration to enforce subpoenas during inspector general investigations &ndash; even if the mayor or his cabinet members are the targets of those probes.</p><p>In Wednesday&rsquo;s letter, Ferguson accused the mayor of hampering his investigations by refusing to back changes to the law that could give him greater independence and authority.</p><p>&ldquo;[T]he Mayor and his Corporation Counsel can cut off access to the evidence needed to definitively determine who, or what, is responsible for possible waste, fraud, and abuse in City government,&rdquo; Ferguson wrote. &ldquo;That is true whether the transgressor is at the ground level, in middle management, or ensconced in the corridors of real power in City Hall.&rdquo;</p><p>Ferguson has been asking for changes in city law that would protect his office from the political budget-making process, and would let him take investigation subjects to court for ignoring subpoenas, instead of relying on City Hall. But Emanuel, for his part, gave no indication on Wednesday that he would support broader powers for the city watchdog, as Ferguson has requested.</p><p>&ldquo;The IG has the same power and capability [as] the state IG and the federal IGs have,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Now, I don&rsquo;t think that they&rsquo;re not capable of doing their jobs, and I think he&rsquo;s a good IG, so therefore I think he can do his job.&rdquo;</p><p>In his letter, Ferguson complained that Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has previously refused to enforce the inspector general&rsquo;s subpoenas, and sometimes simply doesn&rsquo;t respond to its requests. From now on, Ferguson said he plans to let the public know whenever the mayor&rsquo;s office isn&rsquo;t cooperating.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the mayor who calls the shots at the end of the day, when &ndash; when things reach, uh, places that he does not want them to reach,&rdquo; Ferguson told WBEZ in an interview Wednesday.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyers have backed the inspector general during previous subpoena fights, Ferguson said. But he stressed the need for his office to be independent in cases like the one that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court, after former Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration refused to enforce a subpoena on one of Daley&rsquo;s former top advisers.</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 19:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 Investigating Chicago's City Council http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/investigating-chicagos-city-council-94095 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-16/City council.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago’s City Council was scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote on the 2012 city budget, the first proposed budget by new Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Council members were also likely to make history: they were expected to sign off on the first-ever legislative Inspector General for the council. The city already had <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/" target="_blank">Inspector General</a> Joseph Ferguson to investigate misconduct but Ferguson did not have the power to investigate aldermen and their staff. If approved, former New York City Inspector General Faisal Khan would take the part-time post.</p><p>However, many questioned how much authority he would actually have. To find out more <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> spoke with <a href="http://julietsorensen.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">Juliet Sorensen</a>, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago who worked with the city’s Inspector General's Office as the lead prosecutor on Operation Crooked Code, an investigation of Chicago’s building and zoning departments.</p><p><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> also invited Ald. Dick Mell, chairman of the City Council Rules Committee to join the conversation. He led the push to hire Faisal Khan, but Mell’s office did not respond to the invitation.</p><p><em>Music Button: Shawn Lee, "Swimming Pool", from the album Sing A Song, (Ubiquity)</em></p></p> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/investigating-chicagos-city-council-94095 Watchdog budget options: Tolls on LSD, city income tax, privatized garbage http://www.wbez.org/story/watchdog-budget-options-tolls-lsd-city-income-tax-privatized-garbage-92482 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-27/lake shore drive_Flickr_InspiredInDesMoines.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just in time for budget season, Chicago’s City Hall watchdog agency is putting forth more than $2.8 billion in spending cuts and revenue hikes – from imposing a city income tax to charging tolls on Lake Shore Drive to privatizing trash collection – in order to ease a massive budget deficit.</p><p>In his latest menu of “budget options,” Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office lays out 63 ideas to mitigate a projected $635 million city budget deficit for 2012. The options hit both sides of Chicago’s balance sheet, and range from often-discussed policy proposals to pie-in-the-sky political non-starters.</p><p>The single largest-netting option is imposing a city income tax, which the report estimates could bring in $500 million a year to the city’s coffers. Another $450 million could come from broadening the city sales tax to include more services, while raising water and sewer rates could net $380 million a year, according to the report.</p><p>As for spending cuts, the report estimates Chicago could save $190 million by cutting nearly 1,400 management jobs in city government, including more than 700 firefighters and more than 300 police officers. Privatizing the garbage collection for all city households – something Mayor Rahm Emanuel has suggested on a smaller scale – could save another $165 million.</p><p>Some of Ferguson’s ideas could enjoy support from the Emanuel administration. Collecting trash based on a grid system, rather than ward-by-ward, was an idea Emanuel mentioned during his campaign, for example. That could save the city nearly $47 million a year, according to the report.</p><p>But other ideas seem likely to be dead-on-arrival at City Hall. Proposed revenue increases could butt up against the mayor’s pledge to tackle the city’s budget crisis without raising taxes. And while the report identifies millions of dollars in potential revenue from other sources, some could prove politically toxic: doubling the city ambulance fee ($13.2 million), imposing a toll on Lake Shore Drive ($87.5 million); and axing free sewer service for seniors ($17 million).</p><p>Last year, city officials gave the inspector general’s budget ideas an icy reception. Some aldermen complained when the report was dropped on them in the final week of city budget hearings, and the Daley administration suggested the watchdog agency should keep its nose out of budget talks.</p><p>In a letter to city officials this year, Ferguson said he isn’t advocating for any one budget idea, but looking to spur public debate at a time when Chicago can no longer rely on cash-strapped state and federal governments for fiscal help.</p><p>“This will require difficult choices,” he wrote.­</p></p> Tue, 27 Sep 2011 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/watchdog-budget-options-tolls-lsd-city-income-tax-privatized-garbage-92482