Second jobs for Chicago aldermen would be restricted or even prohibited under proposed ordinance

The ability of Chicago aldermen to hold outside jobs would be drastically reduced under a proposed ordinance.

Ald. Andre Vásquez, 40, is giving the measure that was shelved last term and would bar him and his City Council colleagues from outside jobs another shot.

In a proposed ordinance filed last week, Vasquez’s measure stipulates that “serving as a council member shall be considered a full-time job” and allows only a few exceptions for attorneys who perform pro bono work and council members who own fewer than five properties. .

“It’s hard for me to think how someone takes care of their district and votes on city issues the way we do and does it part-time. What this does is change it so that people know that the council job is full-time and excludes certain outside jobs… so that people can only focus on the job they were elected to do,” Vasquez told the Tribune on Wednesday.

Councilmember salaries range from $115,560 to $142,776, according to the city’s employee database. Some more important councillors, including Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36, and Ald. Marty Quinn, 13th: They’ve foregone raises in recent years and are at the lower end of the scale. Councilors newly inaugurated this term are at the higher end of the scale. Council members voted to tie their annual salaries to the consumer price index in 2006 when they were earning $98,125 a year and inflation was much lower than current levels. The automatic raise alleviated the potential political setback councilmembers faced by having to vote to grant themselves raises.

There has been repeated talk of banning outside employment, but it never gained traction. Instead, council members passed ordinances that removed potential conflicts or slightly tightened ethical restrictions. The most recent reforms, passed under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the wake of a federal corruption crackdown, barred councilmembers from working for a client if the representation “could have an adverse effect on the city’s revenues or finances, or affect the relative tax burden or the health, safety, or welfare of the residents of the city.”

At the time, 14th Ward Ald. Edward Burke, a successful estate tax appellate attorney first elected to the council in 1969, was recently accused of using his position as powerful chief financial officer to run business for his law firm. He has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

Opponents of the council employment bans have argued that their work outside of City Council informed their positions as legislators. In recent years, the former Ald. Tom Tunney, 44, was the de facto voice for small business on the council as owner of the Ann Sather restaurant. Former Ald. Howard Brookins, 21, practiced criminal defense while in office and said it influenced his approach to police problems. Brookins and Tunney, along with Burke and several other council members, chose not to seek re-election this year.

Steve Berlin, executive director of the city’s Ethics Board, said the board is “particularly interested in pursuing this issue” as the board issues “about 20 informal advisory opinions each year that relate to outside work done or businesses owned by members of the City Council. .”

“The board doesn’t have a position on whether this should pass, but will of course support whatever the City Council decides on Ald. Vásquez’s proposal, or any other submitted subsequently that aims to achieve something similar,” Berlin said. “As for legal challenges if this were to pass, or possible ‘grandfather’ amendments (which would allow for certain situations that existed before any new amendments were enacted), we are also looking at that, but I cannot predict if there will be such challenges.”

Other Illinois officials have faced renewed scrutiny in recent years for their roles as lobbyists or consultants in various lucrative industries. Villegas was a co-owner of a business with a lobbying contract with ComEd, a deal that broke down in the fall of 2019 (he was no longer a partner as of November of that year, according to ethics documents). New York City restricted its council members from earning outside income in 2016 with certain exceptions for tuition and book royalties.

If passed, Vásquez’s ordinance would go into effect next May, giving council members with current outside jobs the ability to sever ties. Since then, several councilmembers who had outside work have left the council, but a handful of sitting councilmembers reported financial interests in multiple properties or other income from outside work in their most recent statements of financial interest. Those are retrospective documents covering activities in 2022.

Ald. Anthony Beale, ninth, revealed that he earned $15,000 as executive director of the Roseland Youth Center, a sports organization that operates out of the Pullman Community Center. Ald. Debra Silverstein, 50, reported that she provided bookkeeping services to two suburban firms: Marcum LLP and Lipschultz Levin & Gray, in 2022. Ald. Chris Taliaferro owns a group of lawyers of the same name.

Newly opened Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, 48, told the Tribune that she left her job as an account executive at the Chicago Reader during the campaign and that she no longer runs a dance goods business she founded in Andersonville. Fellow freshman Ronnie Mosley, 21st Ward, is the founding partner of an Atlanta-based consultancy called Homegrown Strategy Group. In addition to being an active duty reservist in the US Navy, 34th Ward Ald. Bill Conway has walked away from other roles, including as a manager at Green Street Renewables and an adjunct professor at DePaul.

Ald. Walter Burnett, 27, revealed that he had a financial interest in eight properties in the city in addition to his personal residence and opposes property limits.

“I had property even before I became a councillor. I started buying property at the age of 20. How can you do that? That’s crazy. What happens if you inherit property from your parents? How do you deal with it? I think that’s exaggerating for attention,” Burnett told the Tribune.

Other councilmembers reported having a financial interest in multiple properties in their 2023 ethics filings. That includes Villegas, Ald. Jason Ervin, 28, and Ald. Gregory Mitchell, 7th, but all three reported less than the five-property threshold in Vasquez’s proposal.

The ordinance was presented to the City Council Ethics Committee, now chaired by Ald. Matt Martin, 47, who said he would like to discuss the ordinance with the city’s Ethics Board and understand how peer cities have handled outside revenue.

“In my opinion, there are a lot of open questions about how we are defining things for the purpose of all the ways that people can earn income, even if it’s not necessarily in a more traditional sense understood as employment,” Martin said. last week. He wanted to talk more about the impact on the current council service and “how does this compare to other cities in terms of achieving what Ald. Vasquez is looking to make it.”

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