March 9, 2023
For Immediate Release
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Fully empowered Legislative Inspector General needed now as ever
In an effort to strengthen Illinois’ ethics laws and take on corruption, Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid and the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund call on Illinoisans to support and lawmakers to advance legislation that would fully empower the Legislative Inspector General who investigates allegations of wrongdoing in the state’s legislative branch.
HB 2892, introduced by Rashid, would build on previous ethics successes by the Illinois General Assembly that allowed the Legislative Inspector General to start investigations without approval by strengthening the tools available to the Office of Legislative Inspector General to fully investigate claims of corruption, harassment and other wrongdoing in the legislative branch, making it as empowered and independent as other inspectors general in government.
As was evident by testimony provided by previous investigators, the office of the Legislative Inspector General, for years, has been hamstrung because it is required to get approval for many investigative steps from, primarily, a group of the very same lawmakers it is supposed to hold accountable.
“As my first bill as an elected official, I wanted to start by building on previous reforms and continue the work to restore trust in state government,” Rashid said. “We start that work by fully empowering the Legislative Inspector General, giving the people who work in the legislative branch the protection they deserve, and giving the constituents we serve the reassurance that we are doing all that is required to root out wrongdoing.”
Ryan Tolley, policy director for the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund, said, “I hope lawmakers will look to the future and see these changes as something we can embrace to restore the public’s trust in our important institution that is here to serve them.”
The office of the Legislative Inspector General should be given the full, independent authority it needs to conduct investigations and to publish all results of founded investigations without roadblocks. The following, specific changes in HB2892 would bring the Legislative Inspector General’s authority more in line with the authorities of other investigative offices, such as the Offices of the Executive Inspectors General:
- Require that the Legislative Ethics Commission must include four unelected members of the public to serve along with elected officials, thereby ensuring officeholders cannot stifle or bury evidence of wrongdoing by their peers.
- Increase the Legislative Inspector General’s independence by giving the office the ability to subpoena documents and witnesses without prior approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission.
- Increase transparency and public trust by giving the Office of the Legislative Inspector General the authority to publish the results of founded investigations and summary reports without the prior approval of the Legislative Ethics Commission.
“We have to remember that this office is important – not only for holding us accountable to the public – but also for protecting state employees from harassment, discrimination and retaliation by giving them an independent office where they can turn to raise serious concerns,” Rashid said.
We have seen the real harm that can happen when this Legislative Inspector General’s office is not fully functioning. For years, the office sat vacant until sexual harassment allegations finally spurred action to appoint a replacement. Three former Legislative Inspectors General all have testified about the difficulties the office has had in carrying out its basic obligations, particularly because it must seek permission for some functions from the Legislative Ethics Commission.
In order to begin to restore public trust in government, the Legislative Inspector General office must be able to carry out its essential functions and we ask state lawmakers to advance HB 2892.