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The easy way out needs to end

Friday, Feb 14, 2020

* Dan Petrella at the Tribune

Last week, former Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter told a state ethics task force that the commission — a bipartisan panel of eight lawmakers from the Illinois House and Senate — blocked the release of a report in which she found “serious wrongdoing” by a sitting legislator. […]

Records from Legislative Ethics Commission meetings in May, obtained through an open-records request, show the panel considered a case in which the inspector general had determined someone violated a state law requiring lawmakers and legislative staff to cooperate with her investigations.

Porter’s testimony last week indicated that before leaving office in February 2019 she’d asked the attorney general’s office to bring a formal complaint before the commission. At a May 16 meeting, the commission considered a petition from the attorney general’s office. Democratic Sen. Terry Link of Vernon Hills made a motion to close the case, which was seconded by Democratic Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison. The motion failed on a 4-4 vote, leaving the case open.

Due to a procedural problem with the initial vote, the issue came before the commission again eight days later. This time, Republican Rep. Norine Hammond of Macomb made a motion, seconded by Republican Rep. Avery Bourne of Raymond, to find that the complaint showed sufficient evidence that the law had been violated. There was another 4-4 vote, and this one resulted in the report remaining secret.

At the very least, the Legislative Ethics Commission needs a tie-breaking member. It’s too easy to just split these things on partisan lines to thwart progress and everyone winks at each other because they know the same result will likely happen when a member of their own party’s neck is on the line.

Some states have citizens on their commissions. That should be looked at here.

Yes, I know it’s easier said than done. Who is picked and how? OK, fine. Ask NCSL to a look at how other states do it and choose the best plan(s).

And, by the way, the same goes for the State Board of Elections. Too many tie votes on that board.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

7 Comments
  1. - My New Handle - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    The amorality and hypocrisy of the legislature through time is a reflection of the electorate. It’s what and who we are. Who would the tie-breaker be? Alexa?


  2. - High Times Low Standards - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 10:18 am:

    Rich said it best the other day “Stop being Villains”.


  3. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 10:23 am:

    ===Who would the tie-breaker be?===

    Someone with no skin in the game. That would be difficult to ascertain. And who gets to decide whom that person is?


  4. - Just Me - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 10:24 am:

    Instead of a tie-breaking vote, they can change the rules to follow staff recommendations unless a majority (plus 1) vote otherwise.


  5. - Bourbon Street - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    ==who would the tie-breaker be?==

    Choosing a non-legislature citizen member is not a heavy lift. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has had non-lawyer citizen members on its hearing boards for years. Likewise the Courts Commission (which decides cases involving alleged judicial misconduct) also has non-judge citizen members. The citizen members are on the Courts Commission are chosen by the Governor (not the courts).

    Finding dedicated, non-legislator citizen members who are willing to undergo some training should not be difficult. There are many qualified people who would be interested in this kind of public service. The Governor could choose the the citizen member or the Senate could vote on an application.


  6. - benniefly2 - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 11:54 am:

    They don’t need a tie breaking vote. Just make it mandatory that all reports for majority vote and deadlocked cases are automatically released to the public. My guess is that if folks new that the public was going to find out what was being covered up, they be less inclined to cover it up by deadlocking it in the first place.


  7. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 2:54 pm:

    Bear in mind that this is much worse than is being discussed. The majority of the LEC was told for 2 and 1/2 years that there were no cases at all, while the file grew larger and larger and larger.

    That rests entirely on Leadership, as the rank and file members were lied to repeatedly.


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