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Juvenile center's chief becomes a target
Claypool urges firing of head of facility

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who is waging a heated campaign against County Board President John Stroger, called for the resignation of the head of the county's juvenile detention center on Tuesday.

Claypool said Supt. Jerry Robinson, a former Chicago police official hired last year by Stroger, lacks child welfare credentials and has failed to surround himself with appropriately trained professionals.

"Jerry Robinson, like everybody there, does not have a background in child development," Claypool said at a news conference in front of the West Side juvenile detention facility. "The only way you're going to turn around this center is to bring in professionals."

Commissioner Mike Quigley, who is chairman of Claypool's campaign for board president in the March 21 Democratic primary, joined Claypool at the news conference.

Claypool, Quigley and other commissioners in recent months have called for a management audit and other reforms at the juvenile facility in the wake of media reports of alleged abuse and mismanagement there.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to install an independent manager of proposed reforms as part of ongoing arguments stemming from a 1999 class-action suit against the county. A hearing is expected early this year.

Stroger has repeatedly defended Robinson and other juvenile center employees and has brought in the Annie E. Casey Foundation to conduct a management review.

"Jerry Robinson's credentials as a former deputy police superintendent for the Chicago Police Department speak for themselves," Caryn Stancik, Stroger's spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

It is not the first time that Claypool has demanded an official's resignation. Three weeks after taking office in December 2002, Claypool led a small group of commissioners in calling for the firing of Joseph Nevius, then the head of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

Nevius retired the following month as Claypool pushed for a vote on a resolution urging Stroger to fire him. On the campaign trail, Claypool cites Nevius' resignation as an accomplishment of his first term.

On Tuesday, Claypool also called for a financial audit of the juvenile center and for more constructive programming for the children housed there.

Asked if he was using the center's troubles for political gain, Claypool said, "The election's relevant, but it's certainly not why we're out here today."



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