Chicago's ethics reforms deserve attention

Posted6/6/2021 1:00 AM

We read with double dismay your editorial "Ethics bill allows lawmakers to claim 'reform' but doesn't build trust." First, we share your assessment that the legislation approved earlier this week falls short. But, second, we rolled our own eyes in dismay at the editorial's flippant dismissal of Chicago's extensive reforms.

The weaknesses you highlighted are exactly why we lobbied hard and successfully to have Chicago exempted out. Examples:


Lobbying: Since April 2020, Chicago has prohibited all its own elected officials and employees from lobbying on behalf of private clients before any other government in the state, and has prohibited elected officials from anywhere else in the state from lobbying before city employees or officials, whether for compensation or gratis.

This was an expansion of 1987 Chicago's ban on private lobbying by Chicago officials before other Chicago city employees or officials.

Revolving door: Since 2014, Chicago law prohibits aldermen from lobbying city employees or officials on behalf of private clients for one year after they leave office. High-ranking city employees and mayoral appointees have had a two-year post-employment probation since 2011.

Oversight: Chicago passed in 2019 a comprehensive law giving Chicago's inspector general full powers to investigate city council, including the ability to self-initiate investigations and take anonymous complaints.

Chicago now leads the state, and in some cases the nation, on ethics reforms.

Many of Chicago's most robust laws would have been swept away had we not prevailed on Springfield to exempt Chicago from the state ethics reform package. That would have been cause for far more anguish than just eye rolling.

Ald. Michele Smith; William Conlon, Chair, Board of Ethics; Steve Berlin, Executive Director, Board of Ethics


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