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Cook County Could Get New Corruption Investigator

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Cook County Commissioners are considering a measure to create an independent inspector general. Officials say that would give the inspector general more power to investigate corruption by county workers and officials. Chicago Public Radio’s Lynette Kalsnes reports.

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The measure would set up a fraud hotline, and require regular reports by the inspector general, who could call in the state’s attorney or attorney general if there’s suspected criminal activity.

But Commissioner Joan Murphy and a couple other board members say they’re concerned political opponents will use the office to make frivolous charges. Murphy says commissioners and their staff should be exempt from investigation by the inspector general.

MURPHY: There are the justice department, the FBI, anybody can investigate us. I don’t think we need to add another layer closer to home. I don’t think it’s necessary.

Commissioner Tony Peraica disagrees.

PERAICA: No one should be exempt from the investigation, not the commissioners, not their staffs, not any other elected officials, everyone should be included. And open, transparent information for the public is absolutely necessary to increase the level of public trust.

Some government watchdog groups say the measure doesn’t go far enough. Jay Stewart heads the Better Government Association.

STEWART: If it’s funded with a handful of investigators, with a government the size of Cook County, it’s not going to be entirely effective.

Stewart also urged the county to make more information public about the investigations.

The measure is pending before the finance committee.

I’m Lynette Kalsnes, Chicago Public Radio.

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