LINCOLN SQUARE — A measure that would have blocked aldermen from having second jobs that could conflict with their positions was instead stalled this week.
The measure, which has been pushed by a Lincoln Square Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), would block City Council members from holding second jobs that conflict with their aldermanic responsibilities. But, at the council’s meeting Wednesday, it was sent to the rules committee — often a killing blow to proposed legislation.
“I don’t know, especially during an election year, who is willing to pull that out of the rules committee,” Vasquez said. “But I think it’s a good beginning because, knock on wood, that will be part of the conversation for those of us that make it to the next term … [because] there’s no way anybody can do this as only part-time.”
Aldermen are paid six-figure salaries and have access to a city expense account for renting an office and other costs, but they are considered part-time employees who can take outside jobs to supplement their income.
Vasquez introduced the measure Wednesday. It would amend the city code to define being an alderperson as a full-time job and to prohibit them from being paid for work “related to real estate developments, legal representation or legal services.” Eleven other aldermen co-sponsored it.
In addition to attending City Council and committee meetings during business hours, aldermen are also expected to attend community meetings and events during evenings and weekends and are always on call to address concerns about potholes, tree trimming, public safety and other issues important to neighbors within their wards, said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), a supporter of the proposed ordinance.
“It truly is a full-time job, and you receive the salary of a full-time professional worker,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “And so I think it’s important that the city code makes it clear that there should be limits on outside employment. Particularly when we have seen how outside employment has been abused by some alderpersons, where they trade on their official governmental employment to help them make money in the private sector.”
The city’s current policy has led to trouble for some aldermen.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) served as a real estate attorney for much of his more than 50 years in office. That outside job led to Burke being charged in 2019 with racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion by federal prosecutors, who said he used his elected office to steer work to his law firm.
This also isn’t the first time someone on City Council has tried to prevent outside employment among aldermen. After federal charges were announced against Burke in 2019, then-Ald. Joe Moore (49th) argued for a ban on City Council members working outside jobs.
But the attempts have met resistance in City Council.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) has been skeptical of the previous and current push to block aldermen from working outside jobs via city rules and would rather voters have the final say by being able to vote out an alderman, he said.
“If they could do [a second job], good for them. They are hardworking guys. They want to make a better life for their family. Why are they bad guys because they do it?” Sposato said. “[But] if you’re not doing your job because you’ve neglected it with what other stuff you’re doing, what’s going to happen come election time? [People] are not going to vote for you.”
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