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Local News

Vote on inspector general on Joliet City Council agenda

Hearing to be held on real estate transfer tax

JOLIET – An ordinance creating the position of inspector general for Joliet is set to go Tuesday to the City Council for a vote.

The council also has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed increase in the real estate transfer tax, which would have to be approved by voters in March.

The proposed inspector general position is being created at the urging of Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who would have control and oversight of the position as it is defined in the ordinance.

The inspector general would have the authority to investigate elected officials and city employees “to detect and prevent misconduct, inefficiency and waste within the programs and operations of the city government,” the proposed ordinance states.

O’Dekirk has said he has someone in mind for the job, although he has not said who.

However, several sources have said O’Dekirk plans to name Christopher Regis, an assistant state’s attorney in Will County and former Joliet police officer, to the job.

Regis said, when asked Friday, he has talked with O’Dekirk about the inspector general position. But he would not discuss whether he is likely to get the job.

“I’ve known Bob for a long time, and we talk about a lot of things,” Regis said. “It’s very reckless for me to talk about something that may never happen.”

The ordinance would make the inspector general an appointment of the mayor subject to approval by the City Council. The inspector general would report to the mayor on the results of investigations. Only the mayor could remove the inspector general.

The inspector general would have the power to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents. Employees, elected officials and companies doing business with the city would be required to cooperate with investigations.

In Illinois, inspector generals have been chiefly used in Chicago, Cook County and state government. But the city of Springfield this year created an inspector general position. In Springfield, a City Council ethics committee has oversight of the inspector general.

New positions

The inspector general is one of two six-figure positions created in the proposed 2016 budget. The position would pay $120,000, and the inspector general also would serve as an assistant city attorney.

The budget proposes eliminating three staff attorney positions to offset the costs of paying for the inspector general and hiring private lawyers to handle city legal work.

The budget also proposes hiring an economic development director who would double as deputy city manager at a salary of $145,000. Hock has said he plans to hire Steve Jones, who came to work for the city this year as special projects manager.

Real estate transfer tax

The proposed budget includes an increase in the real estate transfer tax, charged when a house or other piece of property is sold, from the current rate of $3 per $1,000 to $5 per $1,000. The tax hike would raise $1.1 million.

A public hearing Tuesday during the 6:30 p.m. council meeting will determine whether the city moves forward with a referendum for the tax on the March primary ballot.

Gideon Blustein, government affairs director with the Three Rivers Association of Realtors, called the transfer tax proposal “unreliable.”

“Typically, when they go to referendum, they do not have a lot of success,” Blustein said. “They are not very popular with the public.”

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