Sharon Fairley: Candidate Profile
Attorney general (Democrat)
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Family: I have a son, David, and a daughter Leslie.
Education: Princeton University, B.S. Engineering, magna cum laude
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, M.B.A., Marketing
University of Chicago Law School, J.D.
Civic involvement: Vice Chair, YMCA of Metro Chicago Board of Managers
Member, Woman's Board of the Art Institute (arts education initiatives/volunteering)
Member, Steppenwolf Theatre, Board of Trustees
Mentor, University of Chicago Women's Mentoring Program
Mentor, Princeton Alumni Fellowship Program
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
What personal background and experiences particularly qualify you for the role of attorney general?
Following law school, I joined the Illinois Attorney General's Office as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals Bureau.
My experience serving as a federal prosecutor is directly relevant to the attorney general's litigation and enforcement responsibilities. I provided guidance and legal advice to law enforcement partners through complex long-term investigations, reviewed evidence, recommended criminal charges, and litigated cases.
As First Deputy Inspector General and General Counsel for the Office of the Inspector General, I provided guidance on investigative methods and issues
advised the IG on legal issues
reviewed OIG's written work product
provided input on audits and reviews of city agencies
and led OIG's Hiring Oversight section which was responsible for monitoring the city's hiring practices.
As the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and its predecessor agency, the Independent Police Review Authority, I oversaw the agency with jurisdiction over investigations of allegations of police misconduct, weapons discharge incidents, and incidents resulting in the death or serious injury of a civilian while in police custody.
Most importantly, I created the vision for COPA. I developed the new agency's budget, identified the size and capabilities of the staff necessary to fulfill its mission, implemented a hiring plan to attract the most qualified individuals, and developed policies and procedures to achieve quality, timely and independent investigations.
What do you consider the chief responsibility of the state attorney general and how would you conduct the office to achieve it?
I believe the top three priorities of the office should be:
1) To use the law and power of the office to protect the civil rights, health and well-being of Illinois residents and its resources from exploitative, corrupt and unconstitutional practices of government and corporate actors
2) To provide effective and diligent representation for state government and Illinois residents in all matters
3) To provide advice and counsel on important issues that affect our daily lives and to advocate for effective resolutions that consistently represent the best interests of Illinois residents.
Because there are certain duties of the office that are statutorily required, such as representation of the state and state agencies, these responsibilities must always be met. Where the attorney general has the discretion to align resources with critical needs, I would focus first on protecting the health and well-being of residents through effective enforcement of state law, the Illinois Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. My goal will be to level the playing field for individuals and businesses so they have equal access to educational and economic opportunities, the justice system, and a healthy, safe environment in which to lead their daily lives.
Is the office of public information public access counselor important? What should be the attorney general's role in ensuring that state and local governing bodies operate in an open and transparent manner?
The people have a right to know what business is being conducted on their behalf. Public officials have a duty and responsibility to be as transparent as possible, such that citizens have confidence their government is being managed with integrity. The office of the Public Access Counselor is responsible for assisting the state in deciding disputes concerning government records requests. The mission of the PAC is "to help people obtain public documents and access public meetings." The PAC is responsible for defending and interpreting requests for review under FOIA and OMA. In recent years, the PAC has received a steadily increasing number of requests for review. Yet, the PAC only has a staff of 14 lawyers and a budget of less than $1 million, and has a backlog of requests.
Defending and interpreting FOIA and OMA are essential functions of the attorney general's office. FOIA and OMA are the cornerstones for building transparent and accountable governments. As attorney general, I will ensure the PAC is properly funded and staffed, and fight to keep government open, transparent and accessible.
Earlier in January, I released a comprehensive proposal on government integrity, reform and transparency that includes my priority to continue to work toward an open and transparent Illinois government and ensure government agencies meet their obligations under the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts.
How aggressive should the attorney general be in seeking consumer protections through the courts?
Protecting Illinois consumers from abusive and exploitative business practices is an essential role of the office and the attorney general must be a strong and aggressive advocate for all citizens, particularly the vulnerable and others who lack the resources to protect themselves. The attorney general must engage the justice system to protect our citizens' right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in Illinois. By enforcing the laws of Illinois through the courts, the attorney general must help Illinoisans secure a decent wage, a safe place to live, a quality education, and clean air and water. The attorney general must also stand up and enable us to lead our lives and fulfill our dreams without discrimination and exploitation.
How efficiently do you think the attorney general's office operates currently. What, if anything, would you do to streamline the office?
The attorney general is responsible for defining a clear vision for the office and making sure the agency's resources are aligned in support of that mission.
Upon taking office, my first goal will be to implement a 60-day strategic planning process through which we will: clarify the strategic vision
evaluate the organizational structure and infrastructure
and assess how well resources are being deployed against the office's core mission and functions. Through this process we will create short and long term plans for how the office will be organized. An essential component of the strategic plan will be to leverage technology to improve the quality and efficiency of the office's work processes, communications, and data management.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office is not as well-resourced as others in states of comparable size. Among the top five states by population, Illinois only ranks above Florida in AG funding per capita. Moreover, the size of the office in terms of number of employees is low relative to other highly populated states. There is no question the office could do more to support and protect the citizens of Illinois with additional resources. The good news is the office has demonstrated success in bringing in its own financial support as only roughly 40 percent of the office's budget comes from Illinois' general fund. Thus, another essential component of the strategic plan will be to identify: (1) additional sources of revenue
and (2) how certain activities within the office can become self-sustaining.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
The civil rights, health and well-being of Illinois residents are in unprecedented peril and are being threatened daily by a variety of forces Ã exploitative businesses, entrenched political figures, and regressive, discriminatory policies of state and federal government. The next attorney general must have the courage, tenacity, and legal prowess to stand up to these threats and prevail.
In particular, the Trump Administration is unlike any other threat our democracy has faced in recent history. I look forward to leading the fight against the unjust and unconstitutional attacks on women, people of color, our LGBT communities as well as the economy, environment and foundations of our government.
I will gladly join the coalition of Democratic Attorneys General, express my personal commitment to their mission, and ask what more the office can do to better protect citizens from the harmful and regressive policies of the Trump Administration. I will then work to ensure there are legal teams assigned and fully resourced to use the powers of the office to combat unconstitutional federal policy positions in areas such as criminal justice and police reform, immigration, education, voting rights, civil rights, and the environment.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Maxine Waters has been a stalwart of progressive Democratic values for decades. She always speaks her mind and never hesitates to take the road less-traveled.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
I learned that it was my responsibility to get the best education possible and use it to make the world a better place.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I would not have stopped taking piano lessons. I love music and would love to have the ability to make my own music.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Without question, math was always my favorite subject. Through the study of math, I developed problem-solving skills that have benefited me throughout my professional life.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never, ever allow anyone to convince you that you can't do or be something you want to do or be.