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Controversial firm hired for county audit

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County will pay an auditing firm to certify the county's hiring practices are free of political influence, even though the firm failed to catch alleged widespread political patronage during similar audits in Chicago.

The company's last audit of county hiring, for 2003, found no politics was involved in the 110 cases it reviewed.

"Their past audits kind of defy credulity, especially with institutions like (Provident Hospital and the juvenile jail), which are well documented patronage dumping grounds," said Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago).

The county board approved a $100,000 deal Tuesday with Hay Management Group on a 12-to-3 vote for an annual court-mandated audit of its 2004 hiring practices.

The international consulting firm has previously found that both the city and county comply with the Shakman decree, which says neither government can hire workers based on their political connections.

But federal prosecutors said earlier this year the city has been systematically breaking the rules. A federal monitor recently appointed to oversee city hiring said the city was "substantially" breaking the rules of the 1983 decree.

Citing a lack of faith in the firm's performance, county commissioners Claypool, Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) and Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) all opposed the deal. All three commissioners are running for board president.

Quigley said the company's previous findings of compliance at Cook County "a statistical anomaly that would boggle the mind of Carl Sagan."

A call left with the company was not returned.

County human resources chief Mark Kilgallon defended Hay Management's performance, saying they follow a lengthy process for every hiring decision they audit, tracking it from job posting to interviewing.

"They check 10 percent of the hires, but they have to understand the whole (hiring) process and they have to verify the whole thing," Kilgallon said.

Peraica said the company's 2003 audit noted the county's hiring records were "woefully inadequate" and didn't meet the decree requirements.

"And they never followed up, they never asked any questions," Peraica said. "I have absolutely no confidence in this company."

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