The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has transmitted its second quarter report for 2016 to the City Council and City officials. The report summarizes the Office’s activity from April 1 through June 30, 2016.
In his cover letter Inspector General Joe Ferguson notes that the activities summarized in the report this quarter speak to both the progress and the many challenges that the City still faces in creating a paradigm of proactive ethical government. He also recognizes Chicago’s continuing efforts at police reform, cautioning that this critical and urgent task cannot be rushed for the sake of political expediency.
Also in this quarter’s report are summaries of concluded OIG investigations, inquiries, and activities, including:
- An OIG investigation established that for three years a high ranking official in the Department of Buildings (DOB) conducted permit reviews and inspections at 32 properties where a very close friend served as the general contractor. OIG also established that the general contractor’s firm consistently failed to obtain all the required DOB inspections. This and other irregularities in the contractor’s permits and inspections created the appearance of preferential treatment. Accordingly, OIG recommended that DOB impose discipline up to and including discharge against the official and consider enforcement or other action to ensure the contractor’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The DOB Commissioner responded to OIG’s findings and recommendations by declining to impose any discipline on the official or take any enforcement action against the general contractor.
- An OIG investigation established that a DOB Building Inspector solicited and received a bribe from a property owner in exchange for allowing renovation work to continue without required City permits. Among other evidence, OIG reviewed transcripts of the property owner’s conversations with the Inspector and confirmed the transcripts reflected the Inspector sought and received money from the property owner in exchange for not shutting down the renovation work. In April, the US Attorney’s Office charged the Inspector with extortion. OIG recommended DOB terminate the Inspector and DOB agreed. However, after the Inspector’s discharge, DOB entered into a settlement agreement which allowed the Inspector to resign in lieu of discharge.
- An OIG investigation established that a Department of Water Management (DWM) Operating Engineer lived in Hazel Crest, Illinois, in violation of the City’s municipal code requiring its employees to reside in the City. In addition to surveillances and financial records, neighbors’ interviews also established the Operating Engineer’s presence at the Hazel Crest residence and intent to live there. OIG recommended that DWM discharge the employee, as required by City law. In response, DWM served the Operating Engineer with charges seeking discharge. However, after receiving a five-page response from the employee, DWM feared it would not prevail before the Human Resources Board and, in consultation with the Department of Law (DOL), rejected OIG’s recommendation. DWM stated, “Any hint of non-compliance in the future will be addressed immediately and the Department will take all appropriate action.” It is unclear how DWM and DOL will be able to further monitor the employee’s residency or take appropriate action at “any hint of non-compliance.”
- An OIG investigation established that a DOF Booter solicited and obtained a $100 bribe from a driver. The Booter identified a vehicle that records showed should have had a boot on it. The Booter threatened that the driver’s car would be towed unless the driver gave the Booter $100. Ultimately the Booter accepted the cash from the civilian and did not take any enforcement action with respect to the vehicle. OIG recommended that DOF terminate the Booter and DOF agreed. The Booter has appealed the termination.
- An OIG advisory identified the absence of a comprehensive risk management program in Chicago and highlighted the substantial operational and fiscal benefits of implementing such a program. OIG identified two key areas of concern to conducting such a claims analysis: fragmented responsibility for risk and claims-related activity and the lack of complete and accurate data. In response, the City stated that it would establish a cross-departmental risk management working group. The group will include worker’s compensation claims in its analyses, but will exclude police misconduct. The City did not state whether it would publicly report on claims data.
The full Quarterly Report can be found here.