Traveling Aldermen Coast Past City Ethics Rules
(Chicago News Cooperative) — While Mayor Rahm Emanuel prepares to unveil his 2012 city budget next month, Ald. Daniel Solis (25th Ward) will be bicycling in the Netherlands. But Solis won’t be on a European vacation: He will be peddling amid the canals of Amsterdam on a study trip paid for by a bicycling advocacy group. Solis revealed the trip on Twitter and said he will report the $2,000 gift on his aldermanic website, but nothing in the city’s municipal code requires him to disclose the free travel. The travel disclosure rules that apply to Chicago’s elected officials are far more lenient than the ethics laws for state and federal leaders, as well as for the politicians in other major U.S. cities. The city’s ethics ordinance does not consider work-related trips to be gifts, though it does require elected Chicago officials and some city employees to report gifts worth more than $500 in annual financial disclosure statement. The gift restrictions do not cover “reasonable hosting, including travel and expenses, entertainment, meals or refreshments furnished in connection with public events, appearances or ceremonies related to official city business, if furnished by the sponsor of such public event,” the ordinance states.