Illinois lawmakers continue to let our state down by not taking ethics reforms and accountability seriously.
The latest example: The embarrassing handling of Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope’s departure.
The inspector general is a kind of clearinghouse for misconduct complaints against lawmakers. The job is given authority to investigate allegations that a law, rule or regulation has been violated by lawmakers or people who work for the legislative branch.
A Republican, Pope was appointed in 2019 after the job was dark for four years. But she grew frustrated that the position didn’t have more power and with the ethics reform legislation that lawmakers passed last year, saying legislators “demonstrated true ethics reform is not a priority.”
Pope told lawmakers in July that she would be stepping down in mid-December. Then she extended it after a bipartisan panel appointed by party leaders couldn’t agree on a replacement.
Republicans say Democrats, who control both chambers, wanted someone who wasn’t recommended by the panel. Both sides said there were partisan factors at play. There were allegations of political maneuvering.
Cut short by an abridged session because of COVID, lawmakers left Springfield last week without coming to an agreement on this crucial position.
The irony of that is not lost, but not all that surprising. The words “ethics reforms” and “Springfield” don’t exactly match.
Illinois has a long history of wildly corrupt politicians, from notorious Chicago city council members like “Hinky Dink” Kenna to a string of governors who spent time behind bars. (See Blagojevich.)
In recent years, two members of the General Assembly — Martin Sandoval and Luis Arroyo — have been charged with bribery.
And then there’s Michael Madigan, the once-powerful House Speaker whose incredible fall coincided with the ComEd investigation into corruption and bribery.
That inquiry by federal prosecutors continues.
And yet Illinois has no internal watchdog to safeguard the citizenry from corrupt politicians.
That’s a failure of those sent to Springfield.
That’s a failure of the system.