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Claypool, Stroger erupt into shouting match

Friday, January 20, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

A Cook County budget hearing erupted into an explosive exchange between board President John Stroger and Commissioner Forrest Claypool -- longtime rivals now fighting for the board presidency.

The two regularly disagree and sometimes argue, but shouting and finger-pointing came Thursday as commissioners dissected the $1 billion budget for county hospitals.

The tipping point came as Claypool hammered on the continued existence of a finance, public relations and human resources staff at every county hospital -- functions the board demanded last year be consolidated into one office.

Claypool complained that Stroger's ignoring that demand was ignoring "the will of the board." Stroger fired back that he's now in the process of studying consolidation, but "I'm not going to do it under a Claypool schedule," and that county bylaws give "me the authority" to make personnel decisions, "including the people who work for you."

Stroger chastised Claypool and other commissioners who've fought tax increases and pushed for "drastic and draconian type cuts," saying "you're saving some middle-class taxpayers or some rich people a few dollars," but adding the moves hurts the level of service provided at county hospitals.

Claypool countered that "high-paid pencil-pushers do not provide direct medical care to anyone" and demanded Stroger shift salaries from those jobs to front-line nurses and pharmacists.

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