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Commissioner now says it’s best to wait on Stroger

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Daily Herald
by Eric Krol

A Cook County commissioner who suggested last week she could temporarily take over for ailing board President John Stroger said Monday the best course might be to let Stroger’s family make an announcement next month about his future.
“Rather than to upstage that request, it might be in our best interest to wait it out for another week or so,” said Democratic Commissioner Bobbie Steele, noting the Stroger family’s previous statements that they’ll talk about Stroger’s political future in July.
Steele’s comments came as the county board meets today to consider two measures that seek to fill the void in county government since the 77-year-old Stroger suffered a major stroke one week before the March 21 primary.
Stroger has not appeared publicly since the stroke. He’s been in and out of the hospital since then, most recently checking in June 8. It was unclear Monday whether Stroger remained hospitalized, as his whereabouts have become a closely guarded secret in recent weeks.
A proposal submitted by Commissioners Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, and Gregg Goslin, a Glenview Republican, would allow Stroger to continue drawing his $170,000-a-year salary and maintain health benefits while relinquishing power until he’s able to return. Suffredin said he’s unsure whether he has the nine votes required for passage.
Another proposal, pitched by Stroger’s Republican foe, Commissioner Tony Peraica, calls for a hearing to determine whether Stroger can continue to fulfill the office’s duties. But, while calling the overall situation a “national embarrassment, Peraica acknowledged he probably doesn’t have the votes.
Further clouding the picture is the prospect that one or two commissioners could be absent from today’s meeting.
All of which led Steele, who suggested last week she’d be a suitable interim replacement for Stroger, to say that since today’s meeting might provide a lot of heat but little light, waiting until July might not be a bad option. If nothing is resolved today, given the county board’s meeting schedule — only one meeting in July, none in August — that might be what happens anyway.
Chicago Alderman William Beavers, who recently said he’d act as the Stroger family’s spokesman, did not return a call seeking comment. Stroger’s county government spokeswoman also did not return a call.
Also Monday, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office issued a legal opinion that suggested commissioners would have to change county ordinances before allowing the board’s president pro tem to take over Stroger’s duties. There’s been some talk among commissioners that pro tem Joseph Moreno could be elevated on an interim basis.
The opinion also said that only commissioners can determine whether Stroger’s health means his office is vacant and suggested a commissioner could sue to try to force the issue, but only after State’s Attorney Dick Devine and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan refused to sue.


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