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Who's Watching the City?

By Kevin Robinson in News on Sep 7, 2007 1:00PM

2007_9_shakman.jpgIn a 43-6 vote, the Chicago City Council voted to create a new Office of Compliance to police city hiring. Critics have charged that the new office will compete with, and therefore undermine the effectiveness of, the city Inspector General. Daley lauded the vote while reassuring critics, telling the Tribune, "it is the primary responsibility of the inspector general to investigate allegations of misconduct. ... At its core, this department is about assuring that the city is complying with the many local, state and federal requirements." Attorney Michael Shakman is one of those critics. "We think the inspector general should continue to have primary responsibility in any area that involves complaints of patronage hiring and any area that involves hiring practices to make sure it's patronage-free," he told the Sun-Times.

In remarks during a meeting of the council's Budget Committee before the vote, 50th Ward Ald. Bernie Stone announced that city Inspector General David Hoffman is investigating absentee ballots cast in the last election. Stone said that a man and a woman in his ward were issued subpoenas to appear at the Cook County complex at 26th and California. According to Stone, the subpoenas were delivered by an employee of the IG's office, but that they were interviewed by assistant state's attorneys. "Some of you aldermen had better be advised that [Inspector General David Hoffman] is going all over different wards in this city issuing subpoenas to various people in this city," Stone said. "I didn't know whether he had authority to do that, but he's doing it."

Although Hoffman is barred from investigating aldermen, the Cook County state's attorney's office isn't, and it is conducting the investigation. Allegations include steering South Asian voters toward absentee ballots, and promising city services in exchange for votes. "I can't figure out what the hell the inspector general is doing in on this. Nobody involved is a city employee," Stone said. "We fully understand that the City Council has prohibited the inspector general's office from investigating aldermen, and we completely abide by that prohibition," Hoffman told the Chicago Tribune. But it appears that both offices are working together on this investigation, with the city IG looking into possible misconduct on the part of city workers in the election, a charge that came up during the race.

While Stone referred to the charges as "absolute crap," it seems that he's the only alderman under investigation. The vote on Wednesday still must be approved by a federal judge Wayne Andersen, who is overseeing the Shakman case, which has been going on for almost 40 years.

Image via Miller Shakman & Beem.