Mayor Rahm Emanuel today dumped the entire board that oversees enforcement of ethics and campaign finance rules at City Hall, calling it “a new day for ethics and accountability in Chicago.”
During the quarter-century it has existed, the ethics board has been criticized as lax on enforcement. The panel hasn't found a single case of wrongdoing by aldermen, even though more than 20 were convicted of felonies in that period.
Four of the ethics board members were serving terms that had expired or were about to and the the other three members have been asked to resign, said Sarah Hamilton, Emanuel spokeswoman.
Among the seven new appointments are two former judges. Emanuel said he wants Stephen Beard, executive vice president of the Heidrick & Struggles executive search firm to serve as chairman.
The other appointees are Russell Carlson, a retired city deputy budget director; Michael Gallagher, a former Illinois Appellate Court judge; Fran Grossman, director of the Chicago Microlending Institute; Daisy Lezama, a Head Start official for the Cook County Community and Economic Development Association; Julia Nowicki, a former Cook County Circuit Court judge and federally-appointed patronage monitor for Cook County: and Mary Trout Carr, a pastor and author.
There was no indication that the mayor plans to replace Steve Berlin, longtime executive director of the ethics board.
In a recent report, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson noted that the ethics board found too little proof to punish three firms, despite ample evidence that they gave more than $3,500 in gifts to a city worker. The evidence included thank-you emails, expense reports and personal admissions of gift-giving.
The appointments come a little more than a month after Cindi Canary, head of the mayor’s ethics task force, said the mayor could strengthen ethics in the city by appointing a new board.
"They need to do their job differently," Canary told the Tribune in late August. "And they need to think about a much broader constituency, and that constituency is the taxpayers of the city of Chicago."
The task force had recommended that the city Law Department serve as the prosecutor of alleged ethics rules violations and campaign finance infractions. And it suggested that the Board of Ethics determine if violations have occurred and mete out sanctions.
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