GOP state senators continue call for ethics reform

Illinois Legislature has gone three weeks without top watchdog
The door to the Legislative Inspector General's office. The position has been vacant since...
The door to the Legislative Inspector General's office. The position has been vacant since January 6, 2022.(WGEM)
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 3:00 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2022 at 3:01 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - When a lawmaker breaks a law or violates an ethical rule, the Legislative Inspector General steps in to investigate.

But what happens when that position is vacant?

So far, complaints have been laying in wait as the Illinois Ethics Commission tries to come to an agreement on who to be the General Assembly’s next watchdog.

“[We’ve gone] 21 days with no official watchdog over behavior of legislators in the general assembly,” Sen. Don DeWitte (R - St. Charles) said. “We know that there currently there is at least one open complaint sitting at the vacant Legislative Inspector General’s office.”

A complaint was made to the LIG Dec. 23, but Pope decided not to open an investigation as she would soon leave the position.

Former LIG Carol Pope left the position on Jan. 6. Since her exit date, a 45-day countdown started for the EC to find a replacement. If they don’t find a new LIG in the next 24 days, they must find a temporary replacement. After that, their deadline extends to six months. If a replacement isn’t found by then, the Illinois Auditor General gets to choose the next LIG.

The bipartisan joint commission, chaired by Quincy Senator Jil Tracy (R), has looked over potential candidates for the commission suggested by an independent search committee. However, it appears they are currently at an impasse.

“Within the legislative ethics commission there are democrat members on there that are frustrated that we have a vacancy,” Tracy said. “It is something we work on every day in trying to figure out a way to get someone in position.”

Tracy accused the Democratic lawmakers on the commission of playing “political games,” after the impasse began. She argued they are trying to make their own pick for LIG after the “highly recommended” independent commission pick was not acted on.

In response, Democratic committee member Sen. Cristina Castro (Elgin) said “I join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hoping that we can reach an agreement on a replacement for the Legislative Inspector General soon without the continued politicization of the process.”

In addition, Republican lawmakers filed legislation to increase the power of the LIG. The proposal would allow the LIG the ability to subpoena lawmakers, as well as make Ethics Commission meetings open to the public.

They also introduced measures to strengthen ethics legislation passed during the last session. Under current law, legislators must wait a period of six months after leaving office to take on employment with a lobbying organization or firm. The newest proposal would require a 12-month waiting period, as well as prohibit “spouse or any immediate family member living with that member” from working as a lobbyist.

In regards to the legislation, Castro expressed she was “looking forward to reviewing it.”

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