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Inspector general ordinance stalls again

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Cook County Board members deferred acting Monday on a long-awaited ordinance involving an independent inspector general, after the state’s attorney’s office said it was unconstitutional.
Patrick Driscoll, who was asked by county board members for his opinion of the ordinance designed to beef up internal county investigations, said in a written opinion that it is unconstitutional because it places elected county officials separately under the microscope of President Todd Stroger’s office. Driscoll is the state’s attorney’s civil bureau chief and acts as the county board’s attorney
Commissioner Michael Quigley, a Chicago Democrat and a sponsor of the ordinance, said he thought the opinion was taking possibilities to a worse-case scenario.
“Your opinion seems to take it to the fullest extent,” said Quigley.
Stroger, who long has promised an announcement on the position, seems to agree. He is trying to find an outside attorney for a second opinion on the constitutionality of his proposal, said another of Stroger’s in-house attorneys, Laura Lechowicz-Felicione.
Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park suggested a simpler fix: put other county officers on the spot and ask them to submit to the ordinance voluntarily.
“Maybe we should ask them. Maybe (Cook County Recorder of Deeds) Gene Moore wants to be part of the ethics ordinance,” said Silvestri.
For other commissioners, the problem with the ordinance seemed not to be its constitutionality, but its ability to focus on them specifically. The current inspector general is not authorized to investigate commissioners.
Commissioner Bill Beavers and Joan Murphy, both Chicago Democrats said there already were several agencies — FBI, state’s attorney and Justice Department — who could investigate commissioners.
“Now, why do we want to add another Inspector General to investigate the county commissioners?” asked Beavers.
No future date for reconsideration of the ordinance was set.

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