State Now Without Legislative Inspector General

By Benjamin Cox on January 7, 2022 at 9:18am

Carol Pope, 67, is a former Menard County state’s attorney and former circuit and appellate judge based in Petersburg.

The Illinois General Assembly is now without an Inspector General.

Current Inspector General Carol Pope’s last day on the job was Wednesday, leaving no one in the office to answer and investigate complaints of misconduct within the legislature. State Senator Jil Tracy of Quincy, Chair of Legislative Ethics Committee, says lawmakers have known a replacement was needed for months now, but no one has been hired.

Tracy blames state Democrats for holding up the process and trying to use their supermajority to hand-select a new Legislative Inspector General: “We are going to keep trying to get this rectified so that we do have an appointed Legislative Inspector General very soon. At this point, we don’t and it’s a disgrace to the people of Illinois who trust us. It’s just troubling that the last three Legislative Inspectors General have left in disgust of working with the General Assembly because their hands are often tied.”

Tracy, in turn, has introduced SB3030 to the General Assembly to provide the LIG with more leeway to do their job without as much oversight from the General Assembly. The bill would require the Legislative Ethics Committee to meet and have those meetings open to the public and have the meetings publicly posted; no longer allow elected officials to sit on the Legislative Ethics Committee; and provide the LIG with subpoena power to investigate ethics complaints against members of the Illinois General Assembly.

Democrats have accused Tracy and Republicans on the Legislative Ethics Commission from blocking at least two names from being sent to the General Assembly to select a new LIG. Democrat State Senator Cristina Castro accused Tracy and fellow Republicans of politicizing what should be an apolitical process: “I’m disappointed that Senator Tracy continues to politicize a process that was intentionally set up to try to keep politics out. The fact is the Ethics Commission has been prepared to send names to the General Assembly but Senator Tracy and other Republicans blocked those votes. If not for those actions, we could have had a new inspector general in place.”

Tracy, in kind responded in a quote to Capitol Fax, saying state Democrats were attempting to strong arm a candidate of their choosing into the office: “Using your supermajority to hand pick a candidate by going around the independent search committee is politicizing the process. The search committee dedicated many hours and thoroughly vetted each candidate. To completely disregard their recommendation is insulting and a disgrace to the people of Illinois who are demanding a corrupt-free government.”

Republican Representative Avery Bourne and member of the LEC also told Capitol Fax that Republicans have been consistent in the process: “Republicans on the commission have all voted consistently to appoint to the office of LIG the unanimous selection of the independent and bipartisan search committee appointed by the four legislative leaders. We’re not playing politics, but the Democrats sure make it easy to point out their insincerity in calling for ethics reform. The last democratic chair of the LEC was indicted. Dem majorities passed a bill that further disempowered the LIG’s office forcing the resignation of LIG Pope. Democrats have voted against the unanimous selection of the search committee forcing a vacancy in the office. It’s more evidence Illinois Democrats are not serious about true anti corruption reforms.”

36th Distric Representative Kelly Burke who is also an LEC member says Tracy has mischaracterized the situation: “Senator Tracy’s claims today are wildly mischaracterizing the situation. 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 Governor 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. Senator Tracy is right on one thing, the people of Illinois deserve better.”

Lawmakers are not expected to return to Springfield the rest of this month due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Tracy says by allowing the LIG position to sit open for an entire month is a terrible disservice to the citizens of the state.