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Maybe it's time to probe County Board shenanigans

Thursday, July 06, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by July 6, 2006

Cook County Clerk David Orr was speaking for a lot of people Monday when he asked whether misinformation was provided about the condition of ailing County Board President John Stroger to thwart a potential third-party bid. It's just one of many questions for Stroger loyalists, who have treated the job as their inheritance while treating the voters with scorn. In this case, however, we can't help but wonder: Should the crassly partisan shenanigans be investigated?
Maybe it's time for someone in authority -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan or U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, perhaps? -- to find the will and a way to delve into the last four months of county follies.
Stroger supposedly announced his retirement in an unsigned letter Friday, a few days after the deadline for filing an independent bid for the position. We say supposedly because Stroger hasn't been seen or heard from since his stroke in March, the signed letter of resignation wasn't released until Wednesday, and the signature was illegible.
Up until the deadline for third-party candidates passed, Stroger's handlers, including his son Todd, the 8th Ward alderman, and Ald. William Beavers (7th), the family spokesman, insisted that the president's condition was improving and that he was expected to return. It was only after the deadline passed that Stroger's aides announced his retirement for health reasons -- doing it with the unsigned, typed letter late Friday after inexplicably canceling an earlier news conference.
That made Orr, and countless others, wonder what was going on. Beavers responded in a dismissive fashion, the same way he and others have responded to all the questions raised about their Machiavellian maneuverings. "What does he care?" Beavers asked of Orr, before calling Orr a name that a 4-year-old might use. What does the county's top election official care about maintaining the integrity of the election? The answer should be obvious. It's not to Beavers -- and this is the man who wants to take Stroger's seat on the County Board, so he can watch over Todd Stroger as he takes his dad's job as president.
A jury is now deliberating the fate of four men charged with rigging the city's hiring process to favor political workers. The charges against them are partly based on the theory that they "owed a duty of honest services" to the city. Do Stroger's handlers owe a similar duty to the county? If they lied about Stroger's condition, were they failing to fulfill that duty? Is that something worth investigating? Perhaps only prosecutors with subpoena powers can answer that. But it doesn't seem unreasonable to raise that question.
The voters certainly have the recourse of the voting booth to address this bizarre circus. Stroger's handlers are betting the voters won't use it. Will we prove them wrong?

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