Chicago Board of Ethics Chairman William Conlon said Monday he had no choice but to call out Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) for posting a picture of himself on Facebook dressed in firefighter’s gear in front of a city fire truck.
Sposato has blamed “commie, lefty loons” for accusing him of violating that portion of the city’s ethics ordinance prohibiting City Council members and citywide elected officials from using city property, equipment or gear for political purposes.
Conlon refused to comment on the source of the complaint that triggered the board’s investigation of Sposato and subsequent finding of probable cause that the former 18-year veteran Chicago firefighter may have violated the city’s ethics ordinance.
But Conlon defended the finding — first in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, then in a letter to Sposato that responded to the alderperson’s harshly worded letter to Conlon.
“We don’t go look at peoples’ social media sites. We don’t do that. We react to complaints. People can say the complaint is unfair. But it’s not our judgement to make. We get a complaint. We look at the issue. And if the issue violates the ordinance and our case law, we tell people about it,” Conlon said.
Sposato is free to put “anything he wants” on his official Facebook page, Twitter page or Instagram account. But Conlon said, “You can’tuse the city logo, the city seal or city equipment to promote yourself for election.”
Conlon said Sposato is free to try and Photoshop the picture of himself standing next to a fire truck. But that doctored photo is unlikely to be acceptable, under the city’s ethics ordinance
“You can photo-shop the insignia out and make the argument that nobody knows it’s a city fire truck. But, that’s really counter-intuitive, isn’t it? If I see a city fire truck, I know it’s a city fire truck. Not because I see the emblem on it. Because it’s a city fire truck,” the chairman said.
Sposato said he has no intention of playing games with Photoshop.
“I’m taking it down. I’m replacing I with a cartoon fire truck. Then, I’ll wait for my hearing to see if I can put it back up,” he said.
In his letter to Conlon, Sposato explained why the photo he’s been using since “as far back as my first campaign in 2011” was so important to him.
“This picture is personal history. A history of which I am very proud. I am proud to have served the people of the City of Chicago for 18 years. As a further matter of personal history, it was a time when I was strong and fit, before I was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis that, today, deprives me of the use of my legs,” he wrote.
Conlon said Sposato has a right to be proud of the picture and of equally proud of his service to the city.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the Board of Ethics has no choice but to enforce the law.
“It’s an ordinance that the City Council passed. If they’re unhappy with this, let them amend the ordinance,” Conlon said.
Conlon categorically denied Sposato’s claim that the Ethics Board dragged the alderperson’s name “through the mud” by divulging the subject of an investigation whose name should have remained confidential.
“It was absolutely confidential. There was not one aspect of our work on this matter that wasn’t confidential,” the chairman said.
“The only person who broke the confidence on this was the alderman.”