Emanuel to pro­pose tighter ethics rules

Is­sues in­clude jobs that al­der­men can’t hold, con­tri­bu­tions

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - By John Byrne je­[email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @_john­byrne

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will use the even-greaterthan-usual cri­sis of faith in Chicago pub­lic of­fi­cials fol­low­ing the at­tempted ex­tor­tion charge against Ald. Ed­ward Burke to try to tighten up city rules on what out­side jobs al­der­men can hold and how they can in­flu­ence City Coun­cil de­bate on be­half of busi­ness clients.

The mayor doesn’t want to go as far as other calls for ethics re­forms that can­di­dates look­ing to suc­ceed him have pledged in re­cent days — in­clud­ing a pro­posed ban on City Coun­cil mem­bers from all out­side em­ploy­ment.

In­stead, as part of a pack­age of pro­posed ethics re­forms he will in­tro­duce to the City Coun­cil in up­com­ing weeks, Emanuel wants sim­ply to ex­pand the types of jobs al­der­men aren’t al­lowed to hold.

Cur­rently, al­der­men can’t rep­re­sent en­ti­ties who have mat­ters be­fore the city in which the city is an ad­verse party. Emanuel’s or­di­nance also would pro­hibit them from rep­re­sent­ing any­one “who has the right to be­come an ad­verse party,” ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice.

That would pre­clude coun­cil mem­bers from rep­re­sent­ing de­vel­op­ers and prop­erty own­ers in the kind of prop­erty tax abate­ment work Burke did through his out­side law firm, ac­cord­ing to Emanuel’s of­fice. Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties have al­leged Burke with­held a zon­ing change for a drive­way at a South­west Side Burger King in his ward while try­ing to get the own­ers to re­tain his firm for its tax work.

It would also stop al­der­men from rep­re­sent­ing clients in some bank­rupt­cies and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice.

Emanuel also wants to ex­tend a pro­hi­bi­tion on cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from peo­ple who have busi­ness in front of the coun­cil, to ban such con­tri­bu­tions to city elected of­fi­cials for six months be­fore the mat­ter comes up for con­sid­er­a­tion. Con­tri­bu­tions are now out­lawed only for six months af­ter­ward.

In a move to toughen a rule Burke fre­quently ex­ploited, Emanuel also would make it much more dif­fi­cult for the pow­er­ful City Coun­cil com­mit­tee chair­men to over­see de­bate on re­quests that come be­fore the coun­cil from peo­ple they rep­re­sent. Burke often has par­tic­i­pated in dis­cus­sions in the Finance Com­mit­tee he chairs, only to re­cuse him­self from vot­ing on the mat­ter be­cause he had a busi­ness con­flict of in­ter­est.

Emanuel’s idea is to al­low chair­men to re­cuse them­selves be­cause of such con­flicts just three times per year. More than that, and they would need to ei­ther give up their chair­man­ships or di­vest of the fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ships that caused the con­flicts. And al­der­men couldn’t pre­side over mat­ters where they would need to re­cuse them­selves from votes, as Burke often has.

Al­der­men also would face much tighter re­port­ing rules to ex­plain such con­flicts on city ethics forms un­der the mayor’s pack­age.

As he promised days af­ter Burke was charged in a fed­eral case that has rocked the city’s po­lit­i­cal fir­ma­ment, Emanuel will also move to trans­fer ju­ris­dic­tion over the work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion pro­gram to the city comp­trol­ler in the Finance Depart­ment. That would al­low the city in­spec­tor gen­eral to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the $100 mil­lion-a-year pro­gram, a level of over­sight Burke has blocked while keep­ing con­trol over work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion within the Finance Com­mit­tee, which he has chaired for decades.

Emanuel also wants to rein in so-called al­der­manic priv­i­lege, through which coun­cil mem­bers have a great deal of say over zon­ing is­sues within their wards.

City de­part­ments will be re­quired to ex­am­ine their poli­cies to en­sure it’s clear that al­der­manic let­ters of sup­port “are not a pre­con­di­tion to any ap­pli­cant re­ceiv­ing a per­mit or li­cense that should oth­er­wise be granted based on the sub­stan­tive de­ter­mi­na­tion of the depart­ment.”

In the types of zon­ing cases such as the Burger King sit­u­a­tion at the heart of the Burke case, Emanuel wants to re­quire an up-or­down com­mit­tee vote within six months, to try to pre­vent al­der­men from try­ing to stall the process while leaning on the ap­pli­cants.

Al­der­men who ob­ject to zon­ing per­mits be­ing granted will need to do so in writ­ing, ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s plan.

The Burke scan­dal has dom­i­nated the may­oral race for more than a month since the FBI raided Burke’s City Hall and ward of­fices in Novem­ber.

Burke was re­leased last week on a $10,000 un­se­cured bond. He has yet to en­ter a plea, but his at­tor­ney, Charles Sk­larsky, said the al­le­ga­tions were mer­it­less.

While var­i­ous can­di­dates run­ning to suc­ceed Emanuel have crit­i­cized Burke, call­ing for him to step down as finance chair or to re­sign al­to­gether, Emanuel has stopped short of rip­ping the long­time al­der­man di­rectly.

A day af­ter Burke was charged, Emanuel said he would pur­sue leg­isla­tive re­forms but that his ac­tions couldn’t “re­place hav­ing a moral and eth­i­cal com­pass that in­forms your judg­ment of right from wrong, and what is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Burke stepped down as Finance Com­mit­tee chair­man, but in a video on his ward Face­book page said he would run for a 13th full term as al­der­man.

ZBIG­NIEW BZ­DAK/TRI­BUNE

Ald. Ed­ward Burke ar­rives at the Dirk­sen U.S. Court­house in Chicago on Jan 3.

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