Lawmakers leave for the year without addressing looming watchdog vacancy | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – It’s unclear if there’ll be another vacancy in the office of the Illinois Legislative Inspector General as state lawmakers left Springfield without selecting a replacement.

The watchdog position was vacant for an extended period several years ago and harassment and other complaints against lawmakers and their staff were filed, but weren’t acted upon.

After an interim inspector, Carol Pope was selected to be the watchdog. Earlier this year, echoing previous inspectors who said the office lacked investigative autonomy, Pope announced she planned to step down on Dec. 15. Lawmakers don’t return until Jan. 4.

Legislative Ethics Commission chairwoman, state Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said the panel had several candidates interviewed, with another set to be interviewed, but the group couldn’t come together before they left Thursday. The next commission meeting is in a few weeks.

“I have made it clear that I am going to ask for a vote to name a new LIG,” Tracy said of November’s commission meeting.

But, even then, there could a gap of several weeks from when Pope is set to leave and when the full legislature can approve a replacement.

Tracy hopes Pope will stick around because another vacancy in that office is unacceptable.

“And that has happened in the past and my determination as the chairman of this commission is to never let that happen again,” Tracy said.

“I notified the LEC and the four leaders in July about my resignation,” Pope said by email when asked for comment. “That gave them five months to find my replacement. They still have 1 1/2 months to get it done. I am hopeful they will accomplish that in a timely manner.”

The most recent quarterly report published by Pope showed since January there have been 34 claims made, six investigations initiated, seven concluded, four referred to a law enforcement agency and five referred to another investigatory body.

When she announced she was going to depart from the position, Pope called the office a “paper tiger.” She said the legislature has failed to pass meaningful reforms to give the office more autonomy to investigate claims.

The previous officeholders have shared the same sentiments.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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