Amid a sleazy sex and corruption scandal that has engulfed City Hall, Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson has called for reform of what he referred to as the City Council’s “keep your mouth shut” culture.
That “keep your mouth shut” comment came from Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward, who responded to news that his colleague Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward, repeatedly wore a wire for federal investigators by telling reporters: “If I was caught doing something wrong, I’d just take my punishment, deal with the consequences … and keep my mouth shut.”
Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, said: “Where I come from, if you wore a wire, someone’s gonna kick your ass.” O’Shea subsequently retracted his comments, saying he “made a bad joke about a serious matter.”
Ald. Michelle Harris, 7th Ward, expressed her dismay at Solis wearing a wire to secretly record powerful 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke and said council members should treat each other “like family.”
In an Op-Ed for the Chicago Tribune, Ferguson called such comments “disturbingly myopic and tone deaf.”
“This is the language of mobsters, not legislators,” wrote Ferguson, arguing that such comments essentially encouraged aldermen to create their own code of silence to obstruct justice.
He also noted that encouraging aldermen to remain silent about possible corruption is not only unethical but it violates Chicago’s municipal code that requires city officials and workers to report corrupt or unlawful activity.
“City officials have a responsibility to model transparency and honesty,” wrote Ferguson. “Regardless of a cooperator’s motive – be it civic responsibility, self-interest or a combination of the two – cooperation is crucial to successful law enforcement, and it should be encouraged, not vilified, by our elected leaders.”
Ferguson joins Carol Marin to discuss the fight against corruption at City Hall as well as the inspector general’s audit of the Chicago Board of Elections released on Tuesday.