Thursday was the last day of work for Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope, who announced her plans to leave the job in July by writing a letter in which she expressed frustration with realizing the position “has no real power to effect change or shine a light on ethics violations.”
Pope said the office needs subpoena power, the right to publish reports about lawmakers, clarity on jurisdiction between the office and the Legislative Ethics Commission and the appointment of a citizen to the commission explicitly to avoid the inevitable 4-4 votes that stall most significant action.
Those all are great ideas, but right now the office doesn’t even have an officer. Pope originally planned to quit Dec. 16, but gave an extra three weeks so lawmakers had more time to name her replacement. Those days incorporated lots of holiday time off that only prolonged the stalemate.
“Confirming a candidate before LIG Pope left has always been my top priority,” state Sen. Jill Tracy, R-Quincy, Senate Ethics Commission chairwoman, said during a Thursday news conference. “It is unfortunate that my goal was not shared by some of the Democrat members of the LEC who did what they could to stall and circumvent the selection process.
“Our search committee interviewed multiple candidates and recommended two qualified candidates, and we should have been able to fill this position in a timely manner. But several Democrat members of the LEC did not commit to seeing the process through, and we find ourselves without a qualified LIG to address legislative ethics complaints.”
The counterpoint, per Capitol News Illinois:
“Sen. Tracy’s claims today are wildly mischaracterizing the situation,” said state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, Ethics Committee chairman. “Democrats have sought to advance two candidates for final selection, both of whom have been deemed qualified by the search committee and the LEC. Republicans have blocked that effort, insisting on only advancing their preferred candidate – even though both candidates have worked for former Gov. Rauner and have demonstrated nonpartisan, professional expertise. In fact, both are also former federal prosecutors.
“As we’ve said all along, this should be a straightforward process and we must end the political theater so we can fill this critical position. Sen. Tracy is right on one thing, the people of Illinois deserve better.”
That the two sides can’t come together enough to advance the hiring process to fill a job so weak-kneed the last person quit early in protest is further proof Illinois lawmakers have no business being involved in the person charged with overseeing their own ethics.
The LIG should be filled by either gubernatorial appointment or statewide election. Of course, since lawmakers would have to approve either option, expect nothing to change. Again.