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Stroger foes demand leaders resign at juvenile center

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Two Cook County commissioners are demanding the resignations of top administrators at the county's juvenile detention center -- the first step of what they say should be sweeping changes to the facility.

Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley made the demand Tuesday while standing outside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, which is the subject of multiple investigations because of conditions that have been described as harmful to children.

Claypool is running for the County Board president's job held by John Stroger, who appoints the center's leaders. Quigley is running Claypool's campaign.

The two demanded that independent managers be allowed to operate the center. They also called on Stroger to open up its financial books for review.

But Stroger spokeswoman Caryn Stancik said the president stands by his appointed leaders at the facility and won't agree to an audit because "there is no evidence of misuse of any funds at this time."

Riots, abuse alleged

Still, the Illinois attorney general has subpoenaed financial records, including payroll records that critics believe might show the payroll includes Stroger patronage workers.

That action comes years after the American Civil Liberties Union and John Howard Association filed reports detailing abuse against children at the center, also known by its old name, the Audy Home.

Last week, the ACLU amended its filing by alleging riots are continuing at the facility and children continue to be abused.

Children at the center have told the Chicago Sun-Times of beatings by guards and staff-encouraged fights among the young inmates in what they called "the gladiator room." Stancik denies such a room exists.

Candidate: Facility 'a jobs farm'

Claypool insists the juvenile center's problems are a result of people who have been politically loyal to Stroger being rewarded with jobs there, even if they have no experience. The Sun-Times has reported that about 20 percent of all center workers live in Stroger's ward, and others have criminal records.

Center director Jerry Robinson is a former Chicago police deputy superintendent who critics say isn't qualified to run the facility, while Stroger recently named Maria Griselda Moreno Szafarczyk -- sister of county Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno -- to another top job there.

Calling the center "a jobs farm," Claypool wants its leaders replaced by an outside agency with experience in juvenile issues.

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