• Erin Hegarty
    OCT 06, 2023

    Aldermen reintroduce proposal for separate City Council legal counsel

    Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) speaks during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9) on Wednesday renewed their push to give the City Council its own legal counsel separate from the city’s top attorney. 

    Both Reilly and Beale previously introduced their own competing proposals under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to establish City Council legal counsel separate from the Corporation Counsel’s office, but the two alderpeople have teamed up on the latest proposal. Many alderpeople have long included counsel separate from the mayor’s office on their wish list.  

    Related: Proposal for separate legal counsel for aldermen hits another snag as fresh tweaks are introduced  

    The latest proposal (O2023-0004977) would rename the Legislative Reference Bureau the Office of Legislative Counsel but would keep the new office under the control, supervision and direction of the council’s president pro tempore. Ald Samantha Nugent (39) is current president pro tempore.   

    In addition to preparing and reviewing ordinances introduced in the City Council, the Office of Legislative Counsel would advise and assist alderpeople on their legislative duties and evaluate legislative proposals for the council and its committees.  

    The new Office of Legislative Counsel would give alderpeople “competent, unbiased advice” on parliamentary procedure, legislative interpretation and other procedural matters, according to the proposal.   

    Wednesday’s introduction of the proposal came at the end of a council meeting that included parliamentary maneuvering and questions from alderpeople over whether how the meeting unfolded followed the rules of order.  

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    Additionally, the Office of Legislative Counsel could obtain information, data, records, reports, estimates and statistics from any city employee, officer, agency, contractor, subcontractor or city licensee in order to perform the office’s duties.  

    When asked during a post-meeting news conference Wednesday whether he thinks the City Council needs its own legal counsel, Mayor Brandon Johnson implied most alderpeople are satisfied with the corporation counsel’s work.   

    “We have a corporate counsel that serves not just at the pleasure of my administration, but also works with our City Council members,” Johnson said, adding he knows the proposal has been brought up before. "Our corporate counsel has been quite responsive in a way that, quite frankly, has been transformative. The type of engagement that my corporate counsel leads is one that City Council members wanted.” 

    When it comes to other alderpeople proposing separate counsel for the City Council, “democracy allows for that,” Johnson said.  

    A separate proposal (R2023-0004976) from Reilly and Beale would allow staff from the Office of Legislative Counsel to be on the council floor during meetings. Additionally, while council rules currently state alderpeople shall not hold private conversations while another alderperson is speaking, the proposal would make an exception to allow alderpeople to quietly seek counsel from legislative counsel staff.   

    The proposal would require legislative counsel staff to attend all City Council and committee meetings and advise alderpeople on the Rules of Order, council and committee procedures, motions and all other matters related to conducting business. 

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