In a letter to his constituents, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) admitted to political activity in his office after a former employee alleged she was fired four years ago for raising questions about continuing political work being performed.
Moore insists he is the victim of a witch hunt conducted by a showboating inspector general who he says never bothered to interview him, depending only on the testimony of a "disgruntled" former employee.
“Since this allegation first surfaced last week, I conducted my own investigation and spoke with my staff assistants who were employed at the time the alleged event occurred,” Moore wrote in the letter. “Staff members have confirmed that volunteers in the ward office, such as the unpaid intern, on occasion placed stamps and labels on postcards for small political mailings, primarily mailings to the members of my ward organization. My staff members assure me that these occasional mailings are the only political activity that took place in the office, that it was performed only by volunteers and that it has not taken place in the last several years.”
Moore noted that he does not condone the activity but that the acts do not violate the city’s code of ethics as the code does not apply to volunteers or unpaid interns.
“Even if this alleged incident involving the volunteer intern putting labels on postcards had constituted some sort of technical violation of the law, the allegation that the severance paid to Ms. Sullivan was some kind of ‘hush money’ to cover up this event is utterly false and deeply offensive,” Moore wrote.
Inspector general Faisal Khan said there is no statute allowing for severance pay, and that Sullivan had effectively been a ghost payroller, with Moore’s blessing.
"I was like, 'Joe, I was watching your back,'" Sullivan said, insisting she was shocked when she was fired after raising the allegations. To prove her point, the former aldermanic employee provided an email she said she sent to Moore at the time, warning him of the political work she saw taking place.
"I just helped our intern with a constituent issue," she wrote Moore in November of 2009. "And found our volunteer at the front desk putting mailing labels on a big flyer for Toni Preckwinkle."
"This really concerns me," she continued. "I fear that one day we’ll have a reporter at that front door, and THEN what? ... You don’t need a scandal over something so completely avoidable!"
Moore insists he fired Sullivan because she was a "toxic influence" in his office.
"I only had four people at the time," he said Wednesday. "She did not play well with others."
Asked why he paid her such a large sum when she left, Moore said he felt he owed her the money, and that it was an act of compassion.
"Despite her failings, she worked very long hours," he said. "I would never do anything intentionally that violated the law."