SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — On Wednesday, Illinois Legislative Inspector General (LIG) Carol Pope sent her letter of resignation to the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) with her resignation effective as of December 15, 2021, until they fill the position, or saying she will vacate immediately if they prefer.
In the letter, Pope referred to her position as a "paper tiger," meaning that her position does not have the power to do what it is intended to do which is hold legislators accountable for their actions.
"I'm thinking that the legislature knows the limitations of the power of the LIG and that they want it that way," Pope said. "That's why I said I am a paper tiger. There are no real teeth to this legislation the way it is now."
As the LIG, Pope answers to the LEC - a group of eight appointed legislators: four republican and four democrats.
"For 17 years, the LIG's have had to go to the LEC and ask for permission to open an investigation into a member, usually, that is part of the body they sit on," Pope said.
Pope essentially has to ask legislators for permission to investigate other legislators.
The LIG also needs permission to get subpoena power for investigations.
"All of the other inspector generals in the state of Illinois have subpoena power," She revealed. "They don't have to ask anybody. It is only the legislative inspector general."
Pope said the ethics bill that passed the general assembly this legislative session ties her hands even more than before.
Representative Avery Bourne, R-Litchfield, one of the people on the LEC, agrees that they need to allow the LIG to act more independently.
"This should be something where we are looking out for the public good, and not looking out for politicians," Bourne said.
"The LIG is a lot of window dressing," Pope said.
"It's a figurehead?" I asked.
"Yeah, and it gives them the ability to say that we have someone watching over us," Pope continued.
Bourne and 33 other house republicans sent a letter to Governor JB Pritzker Friday asking him to amendatorily veto the ethics reform bill (SB539).
They want to take out the elements that tie the LIG's hands so they can truly be a watchdog for the people of Illinois.
In a statement from Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn, and Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, who are both members of the LEC, they said, "We thank Carol Pope for her service to the state of Illinois in this vital position and we are committed to filling this vacancy quickly and thoughtfully.
The ethics reform package, which passed nearly unanimously this Spring, is an excellent first step and we have always been committed to further conversations that will continue to rebuild trust back in our state government. We do thank Ms. Pope for detailing some of her concerns in her resignation letter, but we feel confident that many are addressed in the new ethics package -- or through law enforcement, which is the proper and just avenue for criminal activity outside the purview of official duties."
And in a statement from John Patterson, the spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon, he said, "President Harmon wants to thank Inspector General Pope for her dedication and service to the people of Illinois. A search for a new inspector general should start soon to make sure there is no vacancy in this vital position.”