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The city council is finally starting the search for the city’s next watchdog as the deadline is imminent | Chicago News

(WTTW news)

More than two months after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson announced his resignation on October 15, the Chicago City Council finally took the first steps on Friday to find his successor as the city’s watchdog.

Although Ferguson reminded Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city council members on July 1 that his third term would expire on October 15 and urged them to immediately start a national search for his successor, officials did nothing until Friday.

The Ethics and Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously to move ahead with the selection of Chairman Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward) on the five-person search committee. A final vote by the Chicago City Council is scheduled for Monday.

Smith picked Walter Katz, who served as deputy chief of staff for public safety under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Cara Hendrickson, who helped draft the consent decree that obliges the Chicago Police Department, a number of in her role as police chief Implement reforms of the Department of Public Interest in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Hendrickson is now the Executive Director of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, known as BPI.

Smith’s recommendations reflect that much of the Watchdog’s work in recent years has focused on reform efforts by the Chicago Police Department after the Justice Department’s 2017 investigation found the department routinely violated the constitutional rights of black and Latino Chicagoans .

Lightfoot’s picks for the commission are Margaret “Peggy” Daley, a former Cook County Ethics Committee member; Rita Fry, who served on the Chicago Police Board and Cook County’s public defender, and Jose Tirado, who now works in the cannabis industry after serving as a director of the Chicago Police Department, read a letter from Lightfoot to Smith Thursday received from WTTW News.

The Lightfoot spokeswoman declined to confirm her selection for the search committee in response to a request for comment from WTTW News.

The term of office of Deborah Witzenberg, Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety, also ends on October 15. This position is appointed by the General Inspector and confirmed by the City Council.

In a letter sent to the city council on Monday, Smith and rules committee chairman Ald said. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) admitted that the process of replacing Ferguson had been significantly delayed.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to attend to this process until now because of press on other city council matters in July,” wrote Smith and Harris.

It is unlikely that the committee members, who must be ratified by the full city council, will be able to complete its work in 28 days before Ferguson’s term expires.

Smith said she and the vice chairman of the ethics committee, Ald. Matt Martin (47th Ward) planned to ask Ferguson to “appoint an Acting Inspector General from among his current staff to act in his place while the selection process is ongoing.”

In a frustrated letter to city council members that nothing was done in July or August, Ferguson said the process to replace him and Witzenburg in “the best of all worlds” would take three to four months after the introduction.

That means an interim or “transfer” inspector general will likely have to be in office by December or February, Ferguson wrote. The inspector general did not rule out staying there until a permanent watch dog can be elected by the mayor and approved by the city council.

“Such a step, or a combination of steps, may provide for all parties concerned, including the public, to have the office protected until a term of office, regardless of political and other institutional influences [inspector general] was duly selected, nominated, approved, and installed in office a few months later, ”wrote Ferguson.

First appointed by ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2009, Ferguson ends his tenure with a long list of pending matters, at least some of which will end up in his successor’s inbox.

At the top of this pile will be the federal court order urging the Chicago Police Department to change its operations. The city missed almost 40% of the deadlines set out in this agreement.

In addition, Ferguson’s city council has failed to give the go-ahead to a database of Chicago police misconduct files in an attempt to regain the confidence of Chicagoans by exposing the misconduct of officials.

In addition, Ferguson has been investigating the botched raid in February 2019, in which Anjanette Young was handcuffed naked and asked for help, for almost eight months. Ferguson said the investigation will focus on “possible wrongdoing” by city officials, including those in the mayor’s office. It is unclear when this investigation will be completed.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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