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Claypool proposes ethics reform

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County Board president candidate Forrest Claypool plans to push for immediate approval when he introduces a sweeping new ethics package today that would ban all county employees from making campaign donations to any elected official.
Commissioner Claypool (D-Chicago) said such a ban, which would be the strictest in the state, is needed because of the problems that have occurred under the administration of his electoral rival, John Stroger.
"This is change that's long overdue, particularly in light of the scandal after scandal after scandal that has troubled county government in recent years," Claypool said.
Allowing employees to donate to their bosses is a conflict of interest, Claypool said, and leads to questions about wh ether employees are promoted or punished for their willingness to donate.
Claypool said top administrators of institutions facing problems, such as the juvenile jail, have donated to Stroger's campaign and still are in charge despite problems.
Stroger refused to say whether he thinks the ban is a good idea, instead issuing a statement saying he's always backed ethics reform, and Claypool's move is political.
"I am not just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of playing politics," Stroger said. "I believe that all people should be moral when they work in government."
With all county commissioners up for re-election March 21, Claypool hopes to force commissioners in tight races into supporting the ordinance and looking tough on ethics.
"Our intention is to make it very difficult for everyone to vote no," said Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), Claypool's campaign chairman.
But the two south suburban commissioners facing challengers, bo th Stroger supporters, said they will have no problem opposing Claypool's measure.
"Why we should be more restrictive than anyone else, that doesn't make sense," Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood said.) "I think they're just trying to make hay."
"I think people should have the right to donate who they want to donate to," said Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago). "This is just a ploy, because there's so many people in the county who want to support county officials ... and the president."
Another ethics reform package has been sitting in committee since Stroger and Claypool proposed dueling versions of it earlier this year. That proposal would bar donations from employees only in the county's three "watchdog" agencies: the inspector general, the board of ethics and the auditor.

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