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Stroger auditing juvenile jail

Thursday, January 05, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

The troubled Cook County juvenile jail will face an internal audit, but will not get a new director, Cook County Board President John Stroger said Wednesday.

Stroger said he ordered the audit about three weeks ago to strengthen operations at the facility, once called the Audy Home. He also rejected calls from his political opponents to fire facility director Jerry Robinson.

County auditor Laura Burman began an audit of all overtime, accounts payable and grant funds so that administrators would have answers in light of "all the rhetoric and the political posturing," Stroger chief of staff James Whigham said.

Whigham said the audit was not a direct response to subpoenas for financial records issued last month by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who apparently is pursuing a criminal investigation.

But Stroger did direct auditors immediately to turn over any evidence of wrongdoing to his inspector general, Whigham said, and not wait for completion of the audit. No evidence of any wrongdoing has yet been found, he said.

The juvenile jail has come under close scrutiny in recent months since a series of reports alleging poor management, unqualified counselors and runaway overtime expenses. The American Civil Liberties Union alleges children are mistreated and that occasional riots continue.

Stroger has denied conditions are so far out of control and said much has changed under Robinson's watch.

Commissioners Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) and Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) announced their plan for overhaul of the jail at a Tuesday news conference. They want to start with firing Robinson, who they say is not qualified.

Claypool is running against Stroger for county president, and Quigley is leading Claypool's campaign.

Stroger vowed at the start of a board meeting Wednesday to keep Robinson and took a swipe at Claypool at the same time.

"I am not firing Jerry Robinson. These people who make accusations went to work for Mayor (Richard) Daley without any real training," Stroger said. "Jerry now has handled all kinds of top jobs at the city. ... Jerry's training is excellent."

Claypool had no experience in parks management when he took over the city's park district at Daley's behest in the 1990s.

Claypool "couldn't even throw a ball" then, Stroger said.

Claypool laughed off the criticism but admitted he was "a .150 hitter as a first baseman."

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