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Out with the friends and family

Friday, August 04, 2006
Chicago Tribune

J.W. Fairman, the new superintendent of Cook County's juvenile detention center, confirmed Thursday that five top leaders of the chaotic facility will be forced out.

On its face, this sounds like the kind of wholesale sweep we've been pushing for, the kind of sweep needed to end the abuse, mismanagement and dreadful conditions at the center.

So why does the move feel like the same old, same old? Because three of the five who are leaving will simply move into cushy make-work county jobs, compliments of the taxpayers. That's exactly the kind of featherbedding the county has to stop doing.

According to sources inside and outside the facility, Assistant Supt. Autrey Calloway, a childhood friend of former Cook County Board President John Stroger who was a driver's ed teacher before Stroger hired him to lead recreational programs at the detention center, will retire.

Assistant Supt. Kevin Ford, the grandson of Bishop Louis Henry Ford, will retire. Fairman, who was once Ford's superior at the Cook County Jail, said Ford was hired by Stroger last fall at the juvenile center despite a poor work record. "He required close supervision, let me just put it that way," Fairman said.

Assistant Supt. Sandra Jones, Stroger's goddaughter, will be moved to the Judicial Advisory Board, which processes grants that come into the county.

Training Supervisor Erica Collins, daughter of University of Illinois at Chicago basketball coach Jimmy Collins, also will move to the Judicial Advisory Board. One of Collins' ideas for training those who worked with troubled adolescents was to hold seminars about dealing with male and female menopause in the workplace.

Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno has been throwing hissy fits all week, promising if his sister doesn't get to keep her detention center job he'll withhold his vote on key issues, according to county officials. The sister, Maria Moreno Szafarczyk, was hired in November to oversee training though she had no experience in that. She has been told she will now be the detention center's "Hispanic liaison," a new position.

"At least she'll be doing nothing in a job that means nothing as opposed to in a job that meant something, so I guess that's progress," said Commissioner Forrest Claypool.

Amid great fanfare this week, interim Board President Bobbie Steele promised "real change in a short period of time." Too bad the first big moves under her direction are tainted by the kind of crony protection system that her predecessor perfected. (Maybe not too surprising. In an interview Wednesday on "Chicago Tonight," Steele conceded "three or four" of her children and other relatives are on the county payroll.

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