Chicago employees doing political work on city time? No way to track that, says inspector general

On Tuesday Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan tweeted out a report that said Chicago officials need to overhaul their timekeeping system because it’s currently unable to track if city employees are doing political work on city time.

What follows is from the release attached to the report that Kahn tweeted out on Tuesday:

December 3, 2014

The Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics, and Citizens of Chicago:

The Office of the Legislative Inspector General (OLIG) has conducted an investigation into allegations of City Council employees engaging in political activity on City time, and provides the following report as the culmination of this matter. This report describes the allegations as provided by the complainant, as well as the allegations determined by the OLIG.

It provides existing timekeeping laws of Chicago, a synopsis of these wards’ timekeeping practices in comparison and contrast to the laws of Chicago, the investigative results discussing 24 implicated aldermanic offices, and suggested areas of improvement for the greater practice of timekeeping.

What initially began as an investigation of one City Council employee allegedly engaging in political activity during City hours at the Board of Elections (BOE), soon expanded to include 68 other potential violators of Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) §2-156-135 “Prohibited political activities” (1 See Page 4 of this report for details regarding this ordinance).

During the course of this investigation, the OLIG determined that the outcome of this investigation was intrinsically dependent on the quality of timekeeping policies and records kept by each aldermanic office and various City agencies. Unfortunately, this investigation found that if time records were kept at all, they were usually kept in a manner which severely lacked accuracy, accountability and transparency.

In addition, after speaking with a number of City of Chicago officials from various City agencies, it was also discovered that there is no uniformed time tracking system in place for all aldermanic offices, nor is there a secondary time tracking verification system kept by the City.  This information was both surprising and eye-opening.

When reviewing the time records of the aldermanic offices, these records were often incomplete or less than conclusive, and, most importantly, were insufficient to satisfy both the MCC and the Ethics Ordinance. After reviewing all available records from 24 wards implicated in this investigation, the majority of aldermen and their staff maintained what can be best described as an incomplete and inaccurate practice of timekeeping.

It must also be documented, as already made public by some, that the OLIG encountered significant difficulty in obtaining time records, as well as cooperation from many employees of City Council, including the elected officials. During the investigative phase of this matter, not every potential violator could be located despite significant effort by OLIG investigators.

Amongst the persons the Office did locate, a great many witnesses, some still employees of the City, were slow to respond, if at all, to official letters, emails, and calls from the OLIG. On behalf of their clients, various attorneys tried to take advantage of weaknesses in an already weak OLIG ordinance and prevented the interviewing of several other potential subjects.

Taking these facts and obstacles into consideration, below is a summary of this investigation by the numbers:

68 – City Council employees were identified as potentially engaging in prohibited political activity on City time.

• 29 -Filled out a form identifying their presence at the BOE for political activity.

• 18 – City Council employees were concluded, based on the preponderance of the evidence, to have engaged in political work on City time.

• 45- City Council employees also went to the BOE, but the OLIG could not affirmatively determine whether these persons broke the rules due to inadequate timekeeping practices by both the Ward Offices and the City.

• 24 -Aldermanic Ward Offices were implicated, as employees of these Wards went to the BOE.

• 15- Wards whose timesheets were in violation of MCC §2-156-115.

• 10- Aldermen were interviewed.

• 9 – City Council employees were uncooperative.

• 5- Aldermen were uncooperative.

• 6- Aldermen were not interviewed because of other ongoing OLIG investigations.

• 2 -Employees testified that they believed that conducting political work was required of their employment.

With this data and our findings, the OLIG recommends overhauling the City Council timekeeping system, and discusses the use of City employees by their superiors for political purposes and activity, along with the consequences of such actions for both the individual and the City.

The OLIG thanks the BOE, the City of Chicago’s Department of Finance, Department of Human Resources, the Office of the City Clerk and City Colleges of Chicago for their cooperation and assistance in this matter, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, who acted as our partners in rooting out corruption and malfeasance by elected officials and their employees.

Most importantly, the OLIG thanks those citizens of Chicago who have bravely come forward with allegations of misconduct by aldermen and/or their staff, and who have signed their names to these complaints, thereby recognizing the need for oversight and a place where their voices can be heard. Collectively we will work to create a City government which we all desire, and, most importantly, deserve.

As always, I encourage government employees, elected officials, and members of the public to do their part in eliminating misconduct in City Council by sending and referring complaints to the OLIG. The success of this work requires the help and support of all people, private and public alike. Working together, we can ensure the highest degree of confidence in the integrity of the Chicago City Council and its staff.

Respectfully,

Faisal Khan
Legislative Inspector General
City of Chicago

Download and read the full report here.

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