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After ethics spat, Cook County code on its way to a revamp
One former ethics board member says the changes are "substantive" but that they didn't go far enough to end "pay to play" politics.

Thursday, September 24, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by A.D. Quig

Amid a swirl of statewide corruption controversy and protest resignations from members of its Ethics Board, Cook County’s ethics code is on its way to a revamp.

Two of the Cook County Board’s most senior Democrats, Larry Suffredin and John Daley, introduced a series of changes to the code at today’s board meeting with Board President Toni Preckwinkle's support, after roughly nine months without movement on a proposal from Ethics Board members.

High-profile exits of three Ethics Board members put Preckwinkle in the spotlight last winter. Around that time, the Ethics Board proposed barring county employees, officials and appointees from accepting or maintaining a job likely to “impair his or her independence of judgment in the exercise of official duties,” “create an appearance of impropriety” or hinder their ability to stick to their fiduciary duty to the county. More than half of the county’s 17 members have a side gig, according to a Crain’s analysis of published reports and disclosures filed with the Cook County clerk.

One of those former Ethics Board members, Peggy Daley (no relation to John), said in an email that today's proposed changes were “substantive and meaningful” and urged commissioners “to swiftly pass this much-needed reform.”

 

But Daley is “disappointed that these proposed rules do not bar conflicting employment of elected officials, which the City of Chicago implemented over a year ago,” she wrote. “Prohibiting conflicting employment would help to end ‘pay to play’ politics. Until that happens we will continue to see our elected officials leverage their positions for personal profit and sadly continue to watch them face criminal corruption charges.”

Daley and Suffredin’s proposal bars employees from using their official position to influence county decisions that might benefit themselves, a relative or a company from which they've received compensation. It also changes the language to bar employees from maintaining other employment that would impair their ability to perform their county duties. Any official with outside employment would be required to disclose it to the Ethics board, and those with conflicts should recuse themselves from votes or “participating in a decision involving the conflicted interest."

The proposal will be referred to committee for further discussion.

 



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