As city Inspector General Joe Ferguson left office last October, Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed she would name a successor who would understand the importance of “staying in their lane” as the new IG.
Lightfoot’s petulant statement was not surprising: She and Ferguson had clashed repeatedly. Partly, that comes with the job descriptions. It’s the IG’s purpose to deliver revelations about malfunctions in city government. And it is the fate of Chicago mayors to be made uncomfortable by IGs who simply do their jobs.
Credit goes to Lightfoot, then, for naming a successor, Deborah Witzburg, who rode shotgun with Ferguson as, from Lightfoot’s perspective, he repeatedly crossed double-yellow lines. Ferguson was bold in the way he publicly advocated for more effective and honest government, embracing the police transparency issue in particular. Ferguson’s reports crashed into the mayor’s efforts to project an image that city government was functioning effectively with her at the wheel.
In fact, as deputy IG for public safety, Witzburg bore responsibility for some of the harder hitting IG reports of Lightfoot’s term as mayor. They criticized the reliability of the city’s ShotSpotter technology, which is designed to identify gunfire and direct police officers where to respond. She played a key role, too, in the IG report that served as a rebuke of the Chicago Police Department’s handling of unrest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
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