Hairston blasted for proposal that protects contractors

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Alderman Leslie Hairston

Crusader staff report

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) came under fire Tuesday, April 18 for sponsoring an ordinance that keeps contractors from filing ethics statements that discloses their clients.

The move came one day after Inspector General Joe Ferguson released his quarterly report that accused an unnamed city contractor of ‘reserving’ 25 jobs for the ward of an unnamed alderman, according to a news report.

A day later, the City Council’s Committee on Rules and Ethics approved Hairston’s suggestion to change the meaning of “city employees” by excluding independent contractors.

“Truly independent contractors [are] people who have separate offices. People who do not respond to the city. People who are under the guidance of the city. People who set their own hours,” Hairston said at the meeting.

If approved by the City Council, the ordinance will spare at least 45 independent contractors employed by aldermen from filing ethics statements. They would no longer have to give the names of their clients, what business they and spouses have with local government offices or companies doing business with government.

Ethics Board Chairman William Conlon blasted Hairston, saying the move “injects a very unhealthy secrecy into government for a privileged few.”

Conlon condemned the move as a step back in the fight towards transparency in politics.

“They’re getting paid, either in whole or at least in part, by taxpayer funds,” Conlon said. “I don’t understand why they should be excluded. If they have other jobs and represent other individuals doing business with the city, that ought to be brought to light.”

Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward), who is also the Rules Committee Chairman said her office treats everyone the same.

“Anybody…that works for me full-time-whether they are an independent contractor or not – is held in my office to the same standards. And they must do everything that the other employees do. It’s a way of keeping things transparent,” Harris said.

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