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While the Board does commence regulatory actions based on public records that warrant a finding of probable cause, the Board of Ethics does not have authority to conduct factual investigations of ethics complaints. Instead, the Board adjudicates completed factual investigations conducted by the IG (and the former LIG) pursuant to its own enabling laws and rules.
We attach an ongoing record showing the status of all completed factual investigations that have been brought to the Board of Ethics.
Pursuant to the Municipal Code of Chicago, after the IG concludes an investigation into violations of the City's Governmental Ethics Ordinance ("Ordinance"), the IG may: (i) dismiss the matter; (ii) refer it to law enforcement; or (iii) file a petition requesting a "probable cause" finding from the Board. Note that only those investigations completed by the IG in which it believes that the evidence shows that there have been one or more violations of the Governmental Ethics Ordinance are presented to the Board of Ethics and are included in this document and the attached table. Other IG investigations are governed by chapter 2-56 of the City's Municipal Code and the IG’s own Rules and Regulations.
Pursuant to the Municipal Code, the Office of the Legislative Inspector General (which does not exist, as of 2016) was empowered to investigate only signed and sworn complaints alleging misconduct against aldermen or City Council employees, and only upon a finding of reasonable cause or issuance of a letter of direction by the Board of Ethics. After the LIG concluded an investigation, the LIG was authorized to: (i) dismiss the matter; (ii) refer it to law enforcement; or (iii) file a petition requesting a "probable cause" finding from the Board.
Note: "probable cause" means a reasonable ground for the Board to believe that the evidence presented by either inspector general in a final investigative report would constitute a violation of the Ordinance, if not overcome by any materials or evidence submitted by the subject of the investigation.
When the Board receives a final IG investigative report, it is obligated to review the entire report and corroborating evidence and determine whether the evidence presented warrants a finding of probable cause, or dismiss the matter if it concludes that the evidence does not warrant that finding.
→ If the Board does not find probable cause, it dismisses the case and notifies the subject and the investigator of its finding and the reasons for its finding. The Board will comment publicly on these dismissals, but cannot mention names.
→ If the Board does find probable cause, the subject is provided with all the evidence and the final investigative report that was presented to the Board. The subject has the right to meet with the Board and offer materials or arguments in support of his or her position (and/or have an attorney or other representative present). No person from the investigating authority may be present. This meeting is confidential and not open to the public. It is called "a §2-156-385 meeting" after the Ordinance section that provides for it.
→ After this meeting, the Board may: (i) seek to settle the matter by fine and/or discipline, or in another appropriate manner (all settlements become public); or (ii) pursue an action for fine or discipline; or (iii) take no action if the subject overcomes the finding (effectively dismissing the matter). Or, if the subject does not overcome the Board's probable cause finding and the matter cannot be settled, the subject may contest the matter, and proceed to a confidential administrative hearing or "ethics trial." An administrative hearing officer hears the case and issues a report and recommendation to the Board. The Board reviews the hearing officer's report and recommendation, and issues a final opinion and determination as to whether a violation did or did not occur, and assesses fines accordingly. Per §2-156-465 of the Ordinance, fines for various types of violations range from $500 per violation up to $5,000 or more per violation.
All of the Board's final opinions become public. However, if the Board determines that no violation occurred, the subject may request that his or her name be omitted from the Board's final opinion.
Any person found by the Board to have violated the Ordinance and against whom the Board has assessed a fine may, within 14 days of when the Board issues its opinion, ask the Board to reconsider its opinion, on the basis of newly discovered evidence or an intervening change in the law. The Board's final opinion imposing a fine can be appealed to the Cook County Circuit Court.
A monograph explaining the Board's adjudicative procedures and the rights of subjects in such proceedings, is available here.
From November 16, 2011, until the office's closing on November 16, 2015, the LIG presented to the Board 50 petitions to commence investigations based on signed and sworn complaints received (two (2) of these were referred by the Board itself). Of these 50, the Board approved all but one (1) of these. Investigations were commenced in the remaining 49. Of these, nine (9) remain pending, and two (2) were referred to law enforcement.
In the remaining 38, the IG, which inherited all LIG matters upon the LIG's dissolution, informed the Board in May 2016 that the LIG had closed 14 cases, and the IG itself had closed five (5) cases.
19 investigations were completed by the LIG.
Of these, eight (8) were dismissed by the Board following findings by the LIG itself that the allegations in the complaints were not sustained.
Another three (3) were dismissed by the Board after the Board concluded that the evidence presented in the completed reports did not warrant a finding of probable cause. In one (1) of these, there were eight (8) individual subjects, all of whom, the LIG concluded, failed to cooperate with its investigation, in violation of chapter 2-55 of the Municipal Code. The Board determined that, although failure to cooperate with an ongoing investigation is a serious matter (which could lead to potential criminal sanctions), such violations fall outside the Governmental Ethics Ordinance and outside the Board's purview. Thus the Board determined that there was no probable cause, but referred the matter back to the LIG and to the Law Department for appropriate action under chapter 2-55.
In one (1) investigation, which was concluded prior to July 1, 2013, the Board found that the subject, an aldermanic staffer, violated the Ordinance due to the misuse of the subject's City title, and the subject was suspended without pay for 15 days.
In the remaining seven (7) investigations, the Board found probable cause. Of these, four (4) were dismissed after meetings with the subjects were held (at which meetings the subjects overcame the Board's findings); one (1) case resulted in a finding by the Board that the subjects violated the campaign contribution limitations in the Ordinance but brought themselves into compliance, and the Board issued an advisory opinion modifying and clarifying the conclusions made in the LIG's final investigative report; two (2) resulted in settlement agreements. In the final investigation, the Board made different findings: (i) as to the first issue, involving failure to cooperate with the LIG's investigation, the Board again concluded that failure to cooperate is a serious matter, but beyond the Board's purview, and referred that issue back to the LIG and Law Department for appropriate action under chapter 2-55 of the Municipal Code; (ii) the Board found that the record before it warranted a finding that there was no probable cause to conclude that there were violations of the gift and political activity restrictions; and (iii) the remaining issue, involving failure to maintain time records, went to a merits hearing, and as a result the Board settled the matter for the maximum fine for these violations: $5,000.
There are currently no completed IG investigations awaiting adjudication by the Board of Ethics.
Since the law changed on July 1, 2013 [at that time, the Board became no longer an investigative agency, but an adjudicative one, adjudicating cases brought to it by the IG and former LIG], the IG has presented to the Board 11 completed Ethics Ordinance investigations.
In all but one (1) case, the Board found probable cause; the status of each case is explained below.
In the first case, 141284.IG, involving alleged post-employment violations, the Board made a preliminary finding of probable cause, met with the subject and the subject’s attorney in April 2015, and after that meeting, voted 6-0 to determine that the subject had rebutted the probable cause finding, not violated the Ordinance, and dismissed the matter outright.
In the second case, 151695.IG, involving failure to disclose information on a Statement of Financial Interests, the Board found probable cause and entered into a settlement agreement with the subject in April 2016 for the maximum fine of $2,000. The agreement is here.
In the third matter, 17023.IG, involving the restrictions on dealing with one’s future employer, the Board settled the matter in September 2017 for a fine of $1,500. The case involved a former City Department Head. Note that, in this case, the Board itself had referred the subject to the IG after the subject presented facts indicating a past violation of the Ordinance. Please see the settlement agreement here.
In the fourth matter, 17024.IG, the Board considered the matter at its July, August, and September 2017 and March 2018 meetings, and made a preliminary finding of probable cause at its September 2017 meeting after requesting clarification from the IG. The respondent and his attorney then met with the Board, as provided by law. After that meeting, the Board voted 5-0 to dismiss the matter for lack of jurisdiction, because the IG failed to complete its investigation within two (2) years of initiating it, as required by §2-56-050(b)(3), and, moreover, the IG failed to provide evidence sufficient to warrant a Board conclusion that the subject had taken affirmative action to conceal evidence or delay the investigation (had the IG made such a showing, the two (2) year time limit could have been extended or tolled to a maximum of four (4) years). However, the Board also voted 5-0 to refer the matter to the City’s Department of Procurement Services on the basis that, the investigation’s dismissal on jurisdictional grounds notwithstanding, the facts cause concern that a City contract may be in violation of the Ordinance, and thus a waiver may be appropriate.
In the fifth matter, 18012.IG, the IG presented a completed investigation to the Board on April 16, 2018. At its May 23, 2018 meeting the Board unanimously made a finding of probable cause as to one issue (namely, that a former alderman engaged in lobbying after leaving City service during the time the official was prohibited from doing so). But the Board unanimously dismissed another IG request for probable cause (namely that the former alderman knowingly negotiated the possibility of future employment with a person that had a matter currently before him) because there was insufficient evidence in the record to support it. At its January 2019 meeting, the Board approved a settlement agreement with the former alderman for a $5,000 fine, and found probable cause to conclude that his employer violated the Ordinance by hiring him as an unregistered lobbyist—the employer settled with the Board for the maximum $2,000 fine. The settlement agreements with the former alderman and his employer are posted here.
The sixth matter, 18018.IG, involves an IG investigation of a City employee who had an ownership interest in a company that entered into a subcontract to perform services for a City prime contractor on that prime contractor’s City contract, for six (6) years, in violation of the Ordinance’s Financial Interest in City business provision. After meeting with the subject and the subject’s attorney in October 2018, the Board voted to sustain its probable cause finding, and then settled the matter for an $8,000 fine and an admission that the subject violated the Ordinance. The settlement agreement is posted here.
The seventh matter, 18023.IG, involves an IG investigation of a now-former City employee who, the IG's investigation found, received a gift worth in excess of $50 from a businessperson with whom he dealt, and provided advice and assistance on matters concerning business in exchange for that gift. The Board made a finding of probable cause at its July 2018 meeting, and at its January 2019 approved settlement of the matter with the former employee for a $500 fine, for failing to disclose the gift on the annual Statement of Financial Interests. Also, at its January 2019 meeting, the Board found probable cause to conclude that the businessperson violated the Ordinance by giving a prohibited gift to a City employee. A subject meeting was held in May 2019. The business owner was subject to a fine between $1,001-$5,000. The Board voted 4-0 that the businessperson violated the Ordinance’s gift restrictions but voted 3-1 to impose the minimum fine of $1,001 (the dissenting board member believed no fine should be imposed.) The settlement agreements with the former employee and gift-giver are posted here.
In the eighth case, 18039.IG, delivered to the Board by the IG on November 30, 2018, the Board considered the matter for a finding of probable cause at its February 2019 meeting. It involves allegations that a City employee, and another, now-former employee, each violated the Ordinance’s gift restrictions by knowingly accepting prohibited gifts from a City contractor, and that the contractor violated the Ordinance by providing these gifts, and that now-former employee approved payment vouchers for the employee’s own travel paid by a vendor, in violation of the Use of City-owned property provision. At its February 2019 meeting, the Board determined, by a 4-0 vote, that the violations committed by the current City employee and the person that gave him dinners at which seminars on topics pertinent to his job were held, were minor, and to issue confidential letters of admonition to the employee and person. The dinners would have qualified as educational meetings, and would have been approved by the Board (and the employee would have needed to report them to the Board within 10 days after each event) had the employee sought the Board’s approval to attend them in the first place. The Board also determined, by the same vote, that there is probable cause to conclude that the former City employee violated the Ordinance’s gift and use of City-owned property provisions. The Board met with the subject in June 2019, and at its July meeting voted 4-0 that the (now-former) employee committed a minor violation by failing to seek and receive the Board’s approval to attend these meetings, some of which were held downstate. By the same vote the Board dismissed the matter regarding approvals of the travel, because the contract at issue contemplated the travel, and the now-former employee had received approval for these trips from a supervisor.
In the ninth case, 19029.IG, delivered to the Board by IG on September 4, 2019, the IG’s investigation found that a City employee exercised contract management authority over a City contract by drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) while negotiating and securing employment with a company that responded to the RFP and was eventually awarded the contract, then, after retiring from City employment, was actively involved in the contract as an employee of the company that was awarded the contract both before and after the City officially awarded the contract to his post-City employer. The Board made a preliminary finding of probable cause at its October 2019 meeting, and the respondent and his attorney met with the Board on July 13, 2020. At the meeting, the Board determined that the respondent had committed four (4) Ordinance violations (two (2) of the post-employment provisions—but the vote on the permanent prohibition’s violation was 3-1, with one Board member dissenting on the basis that there was no such violation); and one (1) each of the prohibited conduct and conflict of interests provisions, via 4-0 votes), but imposed the minimum fine of $500 for each violation, for a total fine of $2,000, because the respondent presented compelling mitigating circumstances. The IG’s investigation was based on a 2017 complaint filed with the Board’s Executive Director, which he then immediately referred to the IG for potential investigation. Read the Settlement Agreementlement.
In the tenth case, 19035.IG, delivered to the Board on October 30, 2019, the Board voted, 3-1, at its December 6, 2019 meeting, to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, in that the IG commenced an investigation of an alderman but did not have a written complaint signed by the complainant until 18 months after it began investigating. The IG’s enabling law in effect until September 27, 2019, required that. Evidence gathered by the IG after a proper complaint was filed was inextricably linked to evidence gathered prior to that time, and was insufficient to warrant a finding of probable cause to conclude that either the Ordinance’s prohibition on unauthorized use of City property or its prohibition on intentional misappropriation of City property for prohibited political activity could have been violated, thus Board dismissed the matter. However, the Board also voted 4-0 to send a written letter of advisement to the alderman that City equipment cannot be operated by a non-City employee.
In the eleventh case, 20005.IG, the IG delivered a completed investigation to the Board on February 11, 2020, and the Board made a preliminary finding that there is probable cause to conclude that the subject, now a former-employee, violated the Ordinance by knowingly filing false or misleading Statements of Financial Interests in 2018 and 2019, by failing to disclose outside income received in excess of $1,000 in 2017 and 2018. The Board requested the investigation after reading media accounts of the respondent’s outside, secondary employment. The respondent and his attorney presented the Board with a written response to the probable cause finding. The Board then determined, at its July 13, 2020 meeting, that the respondent committed two (2) Ordinance violations by knowingly failing to disclose outside income in excess of $1,000 on his 2018 and 2019 Statements of Financial Interests. The Board imposed the maximum fine of $2,000 for each violation, for total fines of $4,000. You can read more about this case here.
In this time period, the Board of Ethics has itself referred 80 non-campaign financing complaints to the IG.
As provided in the Municipal Code of Chicago, for investigations that were pending or were commenced on or after July 1, 2013, the Board may make public the names of persons investigated or whose matters are in the adjudicative process only after the matters are disposed of either through settlement or a final determination after a merits hearing. Hence, the names of the persons investigated are omitted in the chart, except under the circumstances just described. For investigations that were concluded prior to July 1, 2013, all names shall remain confidential. To read all settlement agreements, see this page.