Watch CBS News

Mayor Lightfoot appoints Deborah Witzburg as city's new inspector general

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than five months after former Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson stepped down as the city's top watchdog, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is appointing his former top deputy to replace him.

Lightfoot announced Thursday morning she is appointing former deputy inspector general for public safety Deborah Witzburg as the city's new inspector general, calling Witzburg a "tough cookie," and the right person for the job.

The mayor said it's important for the city's inspector general to remain independent while investigating misconduct and corruption in city government, as well as conducting various audits of city departments and programs, saying "The work needs to speak for itself."

"I think she gets that. I think she's got a lot of good ideas on how to approve efficiency within the IG's office itself. We're going to be working with the City Council, I think, to make some tweaks to the IG ordinance to make it stronger and better, but I feel confident given the level of experience that she's had that she's the right person for this," Lightfoot said at an unrelated press conference.

Witzburg began working at the Office of Inspector General in 2016, and was named deputy inspector general for public safety -- the office's No. 2 position -- in 2019. She resigned from that post in early November to avoid any possible conflict of interest as she applied to replace Ferguson as inspector general.

Before working for the city, she spent eight years at the Cook County State's Attorney's office as a law clerk and then as a prosecutor. 

She graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, and got her law degree from Northwestern University.

"I'm honored to be appointed and anxious to get to work. I'm a true believer in the work of OIG, and I'm committed to carrying it forward with independence and integrity," Witzburg said in a statement.

If her appointment is confirmed by the City Council, she will serve a four-year term as inspector general.

Lightfoot said she expects a robust discussion of Witzburg's qualifications for the job when she appears for a confirmation hearing in the coming weeks.

"I know from having performed similar roles throughout the course of my career, that you don't always make friends when you're trying to do the right thing, and you're telling people you've got to do better," she said.

Witzburg's selection comes after a drawn-out process to find Ferguson's successor, after he'd served as the city's top watchdog for 12 years.

Ferguson announced his plans to resign as the city's inspector general last July, saying he was giving Lightfoot and the City Council more than 100 days' notice to conduct a national search for his successor before his term expired on Oct. 15, but it wasn't until September that a formal search process began. The office is currently being managed by interim inspector general William Marback.

During her time as deputy inspector general for public safety, Witzburg led several key investigations and audits of the Chicago Police Department, including a report that found ShotSpotter alerts rarely lead police to evidence of an actual gun crime, one that found CPD search warrants target Black men more than 4.5 times more often than anyone else, and one that found CPD was slow to make recommended changes to the body camera program.

She also urged the City Council to approve an ordinance that would create a database of all complaints filed against Chicago Police officers, but that effort stalled last May, after Ferguson slammed an apparent compromise between Lightfoot and the City Council as insufficient.

Ald. Rossanna Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) hailed Witzburg's appointment on Twitter.

"No one is better qualified for this job than Deborah Witzburg and I'm so glad she will be our IG," Rodriguez-Sanchez wrote.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) also called Witzburg a "great pick" for the job.

"Should've happened sooner but glad that it's happening!" he wrote on Twitter.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.