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Calumet City: Where Your Government Watchdog Needs to be Watched
By: Nyota Figgs
Earlier this fall, the Mayor hired Cleo Jones as a Chief of Staff for Figgs, one who does not report to her but who appears to be receiving funds from the City Clerk's budget. She did not hire staffer Cleo Jones, she does not know what he is doing, but he appears to be being paid by money she believes is being taken from the City Clerk's budget.
Clerk Figgs can't know for sure because she has not been allowed access to her own office's financial system software for months. She was recently asked to approve expenses paid by her office funds of which she has no knowledge.
This week Benford & Jones broke into City Clerk Nyota Figgs' office and re-keyed the locks. While they were at it, they installed video cameras in Figgs' personal office. They did not ask her if they could take these actions, nor did they inform her that these actions were being taken. They simply took the actions with no reason nor apparent legal basis.
The actions raise additional questions. Why aren't they installing cameras throughout City Hall if the Mayor believes there is a security problem? Will Figgs be allowed to see the footage from her own newly re-keyed office so that she can know who is being given access to her office?
"While I support government transparency, it needs to be truly transparent. I am very afraid because there are important election materials that are stored in my office. I don't know who has keys to my office, the office where the clerk's records and the election material are stored.
All I do know is that someone installed a camera in my personal office without my instruction or permission – a camera whose footage I am not allowed to see. How is this fostering transparency?
Rikki Jones, longtime head of Cook County Democratic Women said, "It is appalling how Mayor Jones and his gang think that they can bully and harass a duly elected city clerk who happens to be a Black woman. What would people say if Lori Lighfoot locked Anna Valencia out of her office? Is Mayor Lightfoot allowed to hire Clerk Valencia's staff and spend her budget? I don't think so. The lack of respect, bullying and harassment being conducted by Mayor Jones is disgraceful. If it is not illegal, it sure should be."
This incredible behavior by Benford & Jones comes in the wake of a myriad of questionable actions taken by Benford: