Dillon: Clear City Ethics Rules and Bigger Penalties for Scofflaws? Yes, Please.

Ethical violations by Chicago aldermen and city officials ought to carry meaningful consequences. Proposed reforms would do that.

It was beyond exasperating that Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, was fined a feeble $2,000 for exerting “improper influence” to help win a $5.5 million taxpayer subsidy for a client of his private law firm.

You know what was worse? Learning that the Chicago Board of Ethics had thrown the book at him.

That $2,000, announced May 1, was the maximum penalty the board could levy. Why bother?

Of course, Burke is in much hotter water with federal prosecutors, who slapped him May 30 with a 14-count racketeering indictment, alleging multiple ways in which he’d abused his position to steer business to his law firm. That’s on top of a January charge that he tried to extort the owners of a Burger King in his ward by holding up a driveway permit. If convicted, he could go to prison for decades.

But ethical violations ought to carry meaningful consequences too. And now is the time to see that they do, with Burke’s troubles unfolding before an increasingly angry public and a new mayor who promised to end self-dealing by public servants.

Read the rest at chicagotribune.com.