The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its second quarter report to City Council, which summarizes the Office’s activity from April 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021. This quarter’s report contains details of concluded investigations, inquiries, and other activities, including:
- An OIG investigation which established that a Department of Law (DOL) paralegal fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits for at least six months, at a total of $14,250, despite their active employment with the City. Specifically, the paralegal made false material representations in an application, and subsequent electronic certifications of their unemployment, to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. OIG recommended that DOL discharge the paralegal and refer them for placement on the ineligible for rehire list maintained by the Department of Human Resources (DHR). In response, DOL agreed with OIG’s recommendations and initiated the process to discharge the paralegal. However, less than a week after their pre-disciplinary hearing, the paralegal resigned and was subsequently referred for placement on DHR’s ineligible for rehire list.
- An OIG investigation which established that from December 2019 to January 2020, a customer service representative for Clarity Partners––an agency contracted to provide employees for the City of Chicago’s Utility Billing and Customer Service Contact Center––stole over $12,285.74 from the Department of Finance and utility customers. Customers or their banks inadvertently mailed water bill payments to different City departments, and the mail was rerouted to the Utility Billing and Customer Service Contact Center where the contract employee worked and was sometimes responsible for collecting and sorting the mail. The contract employee stole some of the mail containing customers’ checks and fraudulently deposit the checks into their bank account. During the course of the investigation, Clarity Partners placed the contract employee on administrative leave and subsequently terminated the employee. OIG referred the matter to DOL with a recommendation to seek cost recovery against the contract employee and to the Cook County State’s Attorney for criminal prosecution.
- An OIG investigation which established that a Department of Water Management (DWM) safety specialist/former pipe yard foreman falsified paperwork and provided misleading information on material requisition forms. OIG established that the then-pipe yard foreman filled out four material requisition forms, each falsely claiming that they had provided five diamond saw blades to four different DWM employees––none of whom actually requested or received the blades, collectively worth over $4,000. After the requisition forms had been reviewed by supervisors, the then-pipe yard foreman added additional text, including the district superintendent’s name, to bolster their claim that the district superintendent had requested the blades on behalf of other DWM employees. OIG recommended that DWM discharge the safety specialist and refer them for placement on the ineligible for rehire list maintained by DHR. In response, DWM agreed with OIG’s recommendation and discharged the employee and placed them on the ineligible for rehire list.
- Additional OIG reports regarding:
- The clearing of debris from the public way, which resulted in improperly disposing of the belongings of a person experiencing homelessness. Illinois state law protects the right of a person experiencing homelessness to a reasonable expectation of privacy in their personal property. This notification was intended to ensure that Council members are aware of the law and City policy related to such activities. OIG recommended that the Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight advise aldermen to confer with the Departments of Family and Support Services, Streets and Sanitation, and Law, before engaging staff or volunteers in such activities.
- The Department of Assets, Information and Services’ (AIS) inventory and management of municipal license plates, which found that AIS’ inventory does not match the Illinois Secretary of State’s (ILSOS) database of municipal plates issued to the City. Without an accurate database and regular audit of the City’s municipal license plates, AIS is unable to account for and track the possession and use of all municipal license plates assigned to the City, resulting in, among other things, a significant risk of abuse and misconduct with municipal plates and vehicles within the City’s fleets. OIG recommended AIS undertake efforts to audit all municipal license plates within its possession, and upload every plate and its identifying information into the M5 database as well as partner with ILSOS to reconcile its M5 database with ILSOS’ database. In response, AIS agreed that the almost 7,000 municipal license plates unaccounted for between AIS and ILSOS are an immediate concern and required investigation; the Department also planned to audit their existing license plate inventory and implement a campaign to check vehicle license plates against records to correct any discrepancies.
- An OIG Public Safety section evaluation which established that the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) disciplinary grievance procedure for CPD members suffers from deficits of transparency and consistency; that there are significant shortcomings in practices and outcomes, including that written settlement agreements do not follow a consistent format but are regularly used to resolve discipline after Sustained findings of misconduct; and that 90% of completed grievance arbitrations between November 2014 and December 2017 have been assigned to just three independent arbitrators operating with vast discretion.
- OIG Audit and Program Review section reports regarding the Audit the Chicago Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program, which found that the contact tracing program mitigates data privacy and cybersecurity risks; and the Audit of Policies and Practices Related to Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Within the Chicago Fire Department (CFD), which found that while CFD’s policies comply with federal, state, and local laws, the policies themselves, as well as the complaint process and training used to enforce and promote them, are insufficient to meet the environmental challenges posed by a command and control emergency service operation like CFD.
The full quarterly report can be found on OIG’s website: bit.ly/OIG2021Q2.
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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.