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City Inspector General Busy These Days

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 31, 2011 2:45PM

2011_3_31_ferguson_IG.jpg We wonder if city Inspector General Joe Ferguson wakes up every morning cursing having to go into work. The man who heads the city department charged with rooting out waste, corruption and mismanagement in city government and improving its effectiveness and efficiency must have to look at his job as a Sisyphean endeavor some days.

Yesterday we pointed out that Ferguson started his own independent investigation into the Police Department's handling of the David Koschman homicide and how they determined Mayor Daley's nephew Richard "R.J." Vanecko threw the punch that killed Koschman yet wasn't charged in his murder. Ferguson's office also released a report recommending the firing of Deputy Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Bobby Richardson, who heads the clout-heavy Snow Command. Richardson, who draw an annual salary of $142,464, allegedly had his subordinates run personal errands for him including having his car washed and filled with gas, and picking up his cigars. The car was provided to Richardson under the city's shared lease program, which is being phased out in favor of a new deal the city signed with Zipcar. It's unknown whether Streets and San Commissioner Tom Byrne will heed Ferguson's recommendation. If we had to take a guess, we'll say that Byrne gives Richardson a suspension and reprimand, instead, freeing up Richardson to wash his own car.

Another IG investigation found that the city wastes $18 million a year to employ 200 truck drivers whose sole purpose is to shuttle city crews to and from work sites. Ferguson argued that collective bargaining agreements locking in the jobs are an unnecessary taxpayer burden. This investigation started when a car carrying two city workers pulled up to a fire hydrant outside the Inspector General's office. One worker got out of the car and painted the fire hydrant while the other worker stayed behind the wheel. Ferguson came to the common-sense solution that these drivers could be replaced by a member of the work crews who could also be charged with driving to and from work sites.

Change isn't going to come without some kvetching by labor unions. The Teamsters have a contract on those driver jobs through 2017 that prohibits the city from transferring those workers to other positions except in the case of emergencies.

Nobody ever called Chicago "the City That Works Efficiently." Whether the IG's office can change that is anyone's guess.