Should Chicago be chosen Oct. 2 to host the 2016 Olympics, the city will sign the International Olympic Committee’s standard host city contract, which would require taxpayers to assume unlimited financial liability for unexpected costs.
While the Chicago 2016 bid committee detailed Tuesday its plan for an array of insurance policies to protect municipal coffers, a group of alderman has introduced legislation to ensure, according to one of its sponsors, “the promise we made to our city, that 2016 Games would not be financed publicly.”
“We are going to provide that oversight, given that we must sign on that dotted line that we are willing to pay for the Games if something goes wrong,” said Ald. Manny Flores (1st).
Among the stipulations in Flores’ proposal: audits of the Olympic organization by the city’s Office of the Inspector General; financial disclosure by Olympic employees making more than $50,000; and quarterly reports about all expenditures and costs.
A council Olympic Oversight Committee led by the Finance and Budget committee chairs would be created under the bill. And an unnamed “public interest organization” would help the city council with oversight.
Previously, legislation sparked by concerns about the potential for taxpayers having to pony up for the Games included capping the city’s financial commitment to any Games at $500 million. But following through with that legislation would have killed the bid, Flores told reporters Tuesday morning.
Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw said the recent run of indictments and corruption in Illinois had Chicago residents worried about the impact of the Olympics.
“People are afraid of being stuck with a corruption tax if the Games are run for the benefit of the insiders,” he said. “They want to see … fairness, accountability, transparency and honesty.”
A competing oversight ordinance introduced by the Daley Administration also articulates the proposed scope of checks the city council could hold over the Olympics.
Daley’s bill would put the chairs of the council’s Budget and Finance committees on the board of directors of the Olympic organizing committee and require quarterly reports on finances, forecasts, budgets and insurance.
Shaw acknowledged the dueling ordinances had some overlap but called Daley’s bill “fatally flawed.”
“The substitute organization asks you to put your faith in the Olympic committee to do the right thing with virtually no oversight,” he said.
During testimony before the Committee on Finance Tuesday, Chicago 2016 chairman Pat Ryan said the Olympic organizers welcomed oversight, and could even live with audits by the Office of Inspector General, should the council vote that way.
He cited the group’s own professional auditors, state government requirements and regulation of non-profits, like Chicago 2016, by the attorney general provided existing mechanisms for disclosure.
Bringing a separate civic organization to vet the Olympic committee’s operations, however, would be “piling on.”
Ryan similarly rejected the idea that the committee be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Committee on Finance is expected to take up the two oversight ordinances Sept. 8, with the full city council weighing in the following day.