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Feds, voters wising up to cloutsters

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times

No one should be surprised by raw politics in Cook County government, especially not after this summer's Machiavellian maneuvering to replace ailing county board president John Stroger. But a story in Monday's Sun-Times provides a fresh reminder of why the whole system needs a top-to-bottom shakeup.
Eric Petraitis, a county Highway Department supervisor, described to reporter Abdon Pallasch how test scores of job applicants are changed so those with clout can be hired over better-qualified job-seekers. He and some current and former department heads pointed to Stroger's patronage chief, Gerald Nichols, as the man who asked them to hire connected applicants. As an example, Petraitis alleged that he gave an applicant for a road equipment operator job, Dwayne Robinson, the lowest score, only to be asked by Nichols to recommend that the man be hired. Turns out Robinson had clout in the 8th Ward, the home base of Stroger and his son, Todd, the Democratic nominee for his dad's old job. Interim board president Bobbie Steele has ended Nichols' patronage duties.
County officials should be extra careful. Voters are likely paying closer attention to what's going on after this summer's shenanigans. And patronage workers at City Hall were recently convicted at a federal trial of similar abuses. If the feds weren't looking at the county before, they probably are now.

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