Next week Cook County county commissioners could vote to expand the power of the inspector general’s office, which investigates fraud, waste and abuse in Cook County government.
That’s after Kim Foxx, the county’s top attorney, requested that county Inspector General Patrick Blanchard investigate her office’s handling of the high-profile Jussie Smollett case.
The amended ordinance proposed by Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, would clarify Blanchard’s power. Blanchard said Foxx and her predecessor resisted his efforts to investigate the office because the top attorney job by law is a state official, even though the county funds the office and its employees are on the county payroll.
“This takes all the ambiguity out of it,” Blanchard said of Suffredin’s proposal.
He said the rule change would allow him to enter into an agreement with the state’s attorney’s office to investigate its handling of the Smollett case, not necessarily watchdog the office full time like he does the rest of the county.
Foxx and her prosecutors have received a wave of criticism for abruptly dropping all charges last month against Smollett, an actor on the TV show Empire. He had been indicted on 16 felony counts for falsely reporting that he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago in January.
Foxx’s office did not directly comment on Suffredin’s proposed amended ordinance. But in a statement on Friday, Foxx said she’s “committed to assuring a transparent review of how this office functioned in the Smollett case.”
The county board is scheduled to meet next week for the first time since its president, Toni Preckwinkle, lost her bid earlier this month to become Chicago mayor.
Suffredin’s proposal also would tap Blanchard as the watchdog for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Kristen Schorsch covers Cook County politics for WBEZ. Follow her @kschorsch.