Not Ready to Cheer About Rahm’s First Year
The city’s handling of NATO-palooza this weekend serves up a final benchmark to first-year assessments of Mayor Emanuel, and it’s fitting because the summit epitomizes the battering Rahm’s approach: Big, bold and frequently impulsive reaches and over-reaches filled with great potential and great peril. But we’ve also been shining a light on other issues an anti-corruption watchdog group cares about, and here’s our one-year assessment of those:
Transparency. Reams of on-line data about city operations and that’s good, but not much insight into how key decisions are made, and who the mayor listens to before making them. Probably need a better balance between Wall Street and Main Street.
Accountability. Quickly admonished city workers, including cabinet members and supervisors, to make a day’s work for a day’s pay mean something, and to work smartly and efficiently. That enabled Emanuel to start cleaning up the city’s fiscal mess. Good. But not enough accountability in his infrastructure trust plan, which essentially privatizes brick-and-mortar projects. Turned out better than its first iteration because he listens to the critics, but only up to a point.
Oversight. Still fighting with the Inspector General over access to internal documents, and hasn’t kept a campaign pledge to expand the IG’s scope to sister agencies like housing and parks. Not good.
Ethics. Appointed a task force that actually performed the task at hand. But we’ve only seen a partial report. And the recommendations aren’t law yet.
Windfall prompts probe
A little-known government agency that invests tax money for school districts in the west suburbs has launched an internal investigation after discovering its top administrator converted unused vacation, sick and personal time into more than $100,000 in cash – supposedly without informing the elected trustees to whom he reports.
The administrator is a politically active fellow named Robert Healy and the agency is the Lyons Township School Treasurer’s Office, which handles investments and some bookkeeping for more than a dozen suburban school districts, including those in Justice, LaGrange, Summit, Western Springs and Willow Springs.
Officials from the agency said they’re in the process of hiring a law firm to try to figure out what, if any, rules Healy violated, and whether his payout was excessive.
Either way, this much is known: the cash-out apparently occurred last fiscal year, and was on top of his six-figure salary and generous benefits.
"I feel taken for a fool," said Ed Maloney, one of three elected trustees and a Democratic candidate for Cook County judge. "This was done completely unbeknownst to me."
Healy, who has donated to Maloney’s campaign fund and numerous other pols, wouldn’t answer questions, including why he cashed out when he did, and whether the payout may boost his pension.
On second thought...
Did state Sen. Don Harmon have another change of heart?
In February, the Oak Park Democrat introduced a bill that would make it legal for someone to simultaneously serve as a mayor and a county commissioner, even if the agencies had a contractual relationship. (Holding the dual jobs currently is legal only if there are no intergovernmental relationships.)
In March, as the BGA started asking questions, Harmon switched directions and stopped pushing the bill.
The reason, he told us, was he didn’t want to influence political races in DuPage County where two suburban mayors said they intended to continue running their respective towns if elected to the county board in November’s general election.
Now we’ve learned that on May 1 Harmon quietly resurrected his bill in the form of an amendment to House Bill 5078. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove), said he didn’t even know about the add-on.
Mathias’ bill would allow a mayor or other local official to also serve as a municipality’s budget officer.
Harmon’s amendment goes farther, and we tried to ask him about the flip-flop. But he wouldn’t talk.
Both chambers still need to approve Harmon’s amendment.
Harmon originally introduced the legislation at the request of a constituent: Pete Silvestri, Elmwood Park’s village president and a Republican Cook County commissioner.