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County stalls its overhaul of insepctor general's office

Friday, May 11, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

Board President Todd Stroger's plan to revamp and strengthen the Cook County inspector general's office hit a small road bump Thursday as commissioners pushed back a vote on it and said they didn't want the watchdog looking over their shoulders.
"I don't believe the commissioners and their staff should be involved in this," said Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood). "This would be a perfect tool for a political opponent. ... Anybody can investigate us, I don't think we need to add another layer closer to home."
Commissioners William Beavers (D-Chicago) and Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) had similar views, but finance committee chairman John Daley (D-Chicago) disagreed.
"My concern is that if we don't do it, we're saying to every individual that works in Cook County, 'We will investigate you, but we're exempting ourselves,' " Daley said. "And that's pretty hard for them to accept."
Stroger said the stronger ordinance was needed because it will help the public regain trust in county government.
"The amendment being considered today would empower the inspector general to operate truly independently," Stroger said.
The board president now appoints the county inspector general, but Stroger's proposal would have a bipartisan county board committee choosing from a slate of three candidates chosen by the Chicago and Cook County bar associations. An inspector general would serve six years, and it would take a two-thirds vote of the county board to remove him.
Department heads would have to act on recommended discipline from the inspector general's office within 30 days or explain why they won't. Without giving details of any case, the inspector general would give quarterly reports to the public on how many cases were investigated, what kind of discipline was suggested and whether it was followed.
Along with complaints from commissioners, Stroger's office said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has questioned whether the board has the legal authority for one of Stroger's proposed changes -- giving the inspector general power to investigate Dart and other separately elected officials.
Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Driscoll promised a legal opinion on that topic, possibly next week

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