Professor: Alderman needs guidelines for lobbyist allegedly acting as chief of staff
Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly should set clear parameters if he is to continue to employ registered lobbyist Madeleine Doering, University of Illinois Professor Dick Simpson said.
It was recently alleged by advocacy website Project Six, via public records and the Freedom of Information Act, that Reilly currently employs Doering not only as a member his political staff, but also as his unofficial chief of staff. Doering is a registered lobbyist for two of Chicago’s biggest property developers: M. Fishman & Co. and Wirtz Realty Corporation. Her alleged dual duties are a potential conflict of interest.
“In this particular case, he is in a similar situation to an alderman who has, say, a zoning appeals business or some other legal business that they run,” Simpson told Chicago City Wire. “Bare minimum, there needs to be some clear indication that the chief of staff or the acting chief of staff is not influencing any zoning decisions or building-permit decisions related to her own projects or the projects she is a lobbyist for.”
Simpson, a political science professor and a former 44th Ward alderman, said a clear firewall between Doering’s alleged role as chief of staff and her position as a lobbyist needs to be established. So far, nothing has suggested that such parameters have been instituted.
Simpson suggested that an official complaint can be filed if it were revealed that Doering had exerted influence on Reilly.
“If there is any zoning decision that she could conceivably have a personal financial interest in or that the people who she is lobbying for have a personal financial interest in, then an official complaint can be filed with the inspector general,” Simpson said. “So a complaint can be filed with the inspector general, and it can be investigated. You would need an example of a particular decision where she might have influenced Alderman Reilly or where Alderman Reilly cast votes related to zoning that either she or the group she represents have a financial interest in.”
Project Six said there was evidence that showed Doering negotiating with developers on behalf of Reilly, as well as overseeing administrative duties in his office. The 44nd Ward, which Reilly represents, is one of the most heavily developed areas in Chicago.
All it takes is one allegation to trigger an investigation, Simpson said. Alternatively, Reilly can ask the Chicago Law Department to issue an official decision regarding the situation, Simpson said. The department could decide whether or not she can formally be his chief of staff.
In any case, Simpson said a decision needs to be made over what role Doering should play at the alderman’s office, or else Reilly needs to set some clear guidelines to prevent any conflicts of interests.
“I do think there is a potential for a conflict of interest in that it needs to be resolved by clear rules or clear decision, such as Alderman Reilly will excuse himself from all zoning decisions that might be influenced by his chief of staff,” Simpson said. “She may have to choose between her zoning work or her work for Alderman Reilly. He simply needs to resolve it one way or another.”
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