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City Council approves new ethics board

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new ethics board was unanimously approved Wednesday by Chicago’s City Council.

Emanuel announced he was replacing all seven members of the city’s Board of Ethics earlier this month.

The board was formed in 1987 to ensure aldermen and other officials follow the city’s ethics ordinance. That includes educating workers about the ordinance, regulating lobbyists and campaign contributors. It also investigates complaints.

But the board has been criticized in the past for a lack of action, and Emanuel said he expects his seven new nominees to change that.

Alderman Ed Burke (14th) said he looks forward to working with the new board members “in a spirit of openness and cooperation to ensure transparency in city government.”

“This is a diverse, distinguished and talented group of Chicagoans brings an invaluable array of practical excellence to an important function of city government,” Burke said.

The Board of Ethics is made up of seven members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Members are unpaid and serve four-year terms; they cannot hold any elected, appointed or political office.

The new board is chaired by Stephen Beard, an executive and general counsel at an executive search firm called Heidrick and Struggles.

Other board members include: Illinois Appellate Court Judge Michael Gallagher; former Cook County Circuit Court Judge Julia Nowicki; former Chicago budget official Russell Carlson; community development expert Fran Grossman; Community and Economic Development Association executive Daisy Lezama; and theologian and pastor Mary Trout Carr.

When Emanuel announced his picks for the panel earlier this month, he was asked why Chicagoans should believe the new board would act any differently than the old board. Emanuel responded it was okay to be critical.

“All of us will have a job to make sure they’re not just another rubber stamp,” Emanuel said.

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