Persons who engage with City of Chicago officials on a legislative and administrative level should be aware of amendments to the City of Chicago’s Ethics Ordinance that recently took effect. The amendments made changes to the rules regarding a City employee’s duty to report wrongdoing, gifts to public officials, and perhaps most importantly, the penalties for violations of the Ethics Ordinance. The changes took effect November 1. 

The first significant change creates a new obligation for City employees or officials to report wrongdoing. Employees and officials now must report to the appropriate City inspector any activity that the employee knows or reasonably should know is unlawful. This obligation extends to unlawful activities “by any person dealing with the city which concerns the person’s dealings with the city.”

The amendments also clarify rules regarding gifts to public employees and officials. The Ethics Ordinance now clearly provides that no person shall offer, and no City official or employee may accept, gifts with an aggregate value of more than $50 in a calendar year. A “gift” is “anything of value given without fair market value consideration.”

Finally, the amendments specify monetary penalties for specific violations of the Ethics Ordinance. For example, a lobbyist who fails to timely file activity reports must be fined $1,000 per day of violation. A person who violates the gift ban is subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Other violations of the Ethics Ordinance, such as employing a party who has failed to register as a lobbyist when required to do so, could lead to fines of $500 to $2,000 for each offense.