Illinois’ Legislative watchdog resigned yesterday. Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope sent her letter of resignation to members of the Legislative Ethics Commission, offering to step down immediately, stay on while they find a replacement or remain until her term ends December 15th.
The 67 year old Pope is a former Menard County state’s attorney and former circuit and appellate judge based in Petersburg says that the position “has no real power to effect change or shine a light on ethics violations.” Pope, a Republican and Melrose Park native became the LIG in March 2019. Her term was originally supposed to end in June 2023.
In the letter, Pope called her job a “paper tiger” and said her repeated efforts to improve the office and its independence were ignored by the current and past General Assembly. Pope said the recently passed legislative ethics package would actually weaken her office, saying that true ethics reform isn’t a concern by the state’s lawmakers. Pope says that the LIGs office is complaint driven, cannot start an investigation without approval by the General Assembly, and has no subpoena power.
Through the first half of this year, Pope’s office received 31 complaints alleging wrongdoing by lawmakers or staff and opened six investigations, with three pending, according to the office’s most recent quarterly report.
Republican State Senator Jil Tracy of Quincy who is the Legislative Ethics Commssion chair said she understood Pope’s frustration expressed in her legislation letter but called the ethics problem in Springfield amounts to “a few bad apples” according to an interview with WTAX. Tracy said, “They don’t want to see people wearing wires, or people going to jail.” General Assembly Democrats wrote a response letter saying the ethics reform package on the governor’s desk is “an excellent first step” in cleaning up the Capitol’s ethics problems.