CHICAGO -- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore today called on all units of government in Illinois to join in adopting provisions of the state Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act.
Moore will sponsor a resolution for Chicago City Council consideration to apply state whistleblower law to the City of Chicago. Last year, Claypool successfully sponsored a similar resolution applying the Illinois Whistleblower Act to Cook County government.
Quinn also touted legislation introduced this week by Rep. John Fritchey (House Bill 4274) to enable citizens to place local whistleblower referendums on the ballot if their elected officials refuse to act.
During this week when Cook County property tax bills have been mailed, Quinn said every taxpayer pays dearly because of political corruption and waste. Bribery, fraud and false contract claims have contributed to the budget crises now vexing municipal, county and state governments. “Let’s abolish the ‘corruption tax’ by giving honest citizens the incentive to blow the whistle on fraud against taxpayers,” Quinn said.
Quinn said the Chicago City Council should adopt Whistleblower provisions to empower individual taxpayers to file taxpayer suits directly against unscrupulous contractors and public officials who defraud city government.
Whistleblowers could recoup up to triple the damages for a local government, while pocketing up to 30 percent of that total (plus legal expenses) as a reward. In one recent case, an Illinois woman received more than $29 million for blowing the whistle on Medicare fraud. Whistleblowers would also be protected against retaliation or being fired.
Under Illinois state law, a local unit of government can immediately put its jurisdiction under the state whistleblower provisions merely by passing a one-sentence resolution at the next scheduled meeting. Governmental units such as school districts, park districts, forest preserve districts and water treatment districts could vote to have the state whistleblower provisions apply to them.
The Chicago City Council meets next Wednesday, February 11, the day before President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Lincoln was responsible for enactment of the 1863 False Claims Act to protect the government from fraudulent equipment suppliers during the Civil War, and he expressed contempt for those who cheat the taxpayers: “Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains and their countrymen are moldering in the dust.”
“What better way to honor President Lincoln than by approving the Chicago Whistleblower Ordinance,” Quinn said.
“We simply cannot depend solely on the media or U.S. Attorney to root out corruption,” Moore said. “We also need the help of vigilant citizens and government employees who witness waste and fraud.”
“The real eyes and ears are the hard-working men and women who are in a position to know whether the government is getting its full value for the money,” Quinn said.
Local whistleblower acts have been adopted by Country Club Hills, DesPlaines, Hazel Crest, Palos Hills, Palos Heights, Cook County’s Worth Township, DuPage County’s York Township, Harper Community College, Naperville Community Unit District #203, and Cook County.
Local whistleblower acts could also be adopted by referendum, under legislation introduced this week by Rep. John Fritchey. House Bill 4274 would enable citizens in any local unit of government to place a whistleblower referendum on the ballot by gathering petition signatures equal to at least 2 percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the previous general election.
“The Whistleblower Referendum proposal empowers citizens to protect themselves from corruption if their local elected officials refuse to act,” Quinn said.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that since 1986 when Congress strengthened the federal act, more than $3 billion has been returned to the Treasury as a result of whistleblower claims.
The Cook County and Chicago Whistleblower Ordinances are directly related to the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act pushed through in 1991 by Quinn when he was State Treasurer.