Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed an ordinance Wednesday that could pave the way for the city to release reports by the inspector general detailing investigations into alleged waste and fraud by city employees.
Municipal law currently designates some reports as confidential, and Lightfoot’s administration pointed to that designation last month in denying WBEZ’s requests for the inspector general’s report into the shooting of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke. That report was the basis for recommendations that the city fire 11 officers, including a high-ranking chief and deputy chief.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson has called for the city to release his office’s report on the police killing of the 17-year-old McDonald, saying the probe was “a matter of high public interest and importance” and that the public still doesn’t know the “the full story” about the shooting’s aftermath, a shooting that gained international interest after the city released video showing the teen walking away from officers when he was killed.
During her campaign, Lightfoot also called for the release of the reports.
“It’s absolutely critical,” she told WBEZ in March, that they “be fully released in their entirety, including all the attachments and the evidence.”
However, once in office, her administration denied records requests for the reports, citing legal restrictions that this ordinance could presumably lift. The proposal would change municipal law to allow the city to release reports in cases involving death, or cases that may involve a felony and are of a compelling public interest.
“People have a right to question the decisions made by their government officials and to hold them accountable,” said Lightfoot in a written statement on the ordinance. “Withholding all OIG reports only generates mistrust at a time when city government should be focusing its efforts on rebuilding trust and restoring the public’s faith.”
But the proposal, if adopted by the City Council, would not remove other barriers Lightfoot’s administration cited when denying WBEZ’s request for the release of Ferguson’s report, including a state law and Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan’s decorum order in the criminal case against Van Dyke.
A spokesman for Lightfoot did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what the administration is doing to remove those barriers and allow for the release of the report.
Shannon Heffernan is a criminal justice reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @shannon_h.
Chip Mitchell contributed reporting.