White House honors Chicago alderman's reform -- as FBI questions him on improper payments

We’re used to the White House not vetting candidates, but apparently that lack of research extends throughout their efforts.  Yesterday, the Obama administration announced that it would honor Chicago alderman Joe Moore for being a “pioneer for political reform,” according to the Chicago Tribune.  There’s only one problem for the White House, and that the pioneer reformer had to answer questions from the FBI based on an IG report on potential corruption:

In a case of only-in-Chicago political timing, the White House announced Monday it would honor Ald. Joe Moore as a “pioneer for political reform,” the same day the veteran City Council member revealed he has spoken to FBI agents about allegations he improperly paid two aides he fired.

The accusations involving the ex-employees surfaced in a report from Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan, one of several cases of alleged aldermanic wrongdoing the council’s watchdog highlighted.

Khan contends that Moore, who has represented Rogers Park since 1991, fired a woman in 2009 after she complained about political work being done in his ward office in violation of city laws. The report says Moore, 49th, paid the woman $8,709 — the equivalent of three-and-a-half months salary, and told her not to speak to anyone about the political activities in the ward office.

The report also says Moore, who has long been considered a progressive voice on the council, fired his chief of staff in 2007 and paid him $13,497 more than he should have based on the number of unused sick days the chief of staff could have accumulated.

Khan indicated that his office forwarded the information to the FBI and the Cook County state’s attorney. Moore confirmed he has spoken to FBI agents about the allegations, but called them “totally baseless.”

Moore blames the probe on “a lack of professionalism” at the IG’s office.  I’m not sure what that means in this context, however.  The alderman only created the IG office in 2011 under pressure from Richard Daley, since the council had done nothing to police itself while “many council members ended up in prison,” the Tribune points out.  In this case, the IG turned over the evidence in its probe to the FBI, which appears to be the professional procedure to apply.

And for that matter, why is the White House heralding a “pioneer for political reform” who publicly demeans an IG? Is that “change,” or is that more of The Chicago Way?  It’s unclear how the White House chose Moore for the award in the first place, since the public website makes no mention of an “Alderman Moore” at all.  The honor of being a pioneer of political reform in Chicago seems at best to be a relative assessment.