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Shakman goes after county hiring

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporter

Attorney Michael Shakman asked a federal judge Monday to appoint a monitor to oversee all hiring in Cook County government -- just as the judge has done for the city of Chicago.

Shakman's motion is based on two Chicago Sun-Times investigative reports about patronage hiring in Cook County government.

Shakman is the attorney who filed the 1969 lawsuit that forced the city, county and other local governments to forbid hiring and firing based on political clout. But as the Sun-Times stories have shown and as Shakman's motion alleges, patronage hiring has become rampant in county government again.

"It has become clear that . . . Cook County has engaged in substantial, illegal patronage hiring and promotion of non-exempt employees in violation of the judgement," Shakman states in his motion.


PERAICA CONTACTED SHAKMAN
The two candidates for Cook County Board president, Democrat Todd Stroger and Republican Tony Peraica, appeared on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" program Monday and offered different takes on the filing.

Stroger said he did not think too many members of his 8th Ward Democratic organization had county jobs or a favored status for promotions, as laid out in the Sun-Times last week. He said that a federal monitor might be as "costly" for the county as he said it had been for the city, but that he would not fight it.

Peraica had led the charge for a federal monitor and recently contacted Shakman's office suggesting he seek the federal monitor.

In last week's story, the Sun-Times quoted Highway Department supervisor Eric Petraitis saying he felt pressured by former President John Stroger's patronage chief Gerald Nichols to change test scores so Todd Stroger's friend Dwayne Robinson, who was rated unqualified for a highway job, could be hired instead of a candidate who was qualified.

Todd Stroger concedes a close friendship with Robinson and Nichols, who is an unpaid adviser to his campaign and serves as secretary of his ward organization. Stroger said he has talked to Nichols since the Sun-Times story appeared last Monday. But Stroger said he never asked Nichols about the allegations.


INVESTIGATION SOUGHT
The motion also cited last year's Sun-Times story that Commissioner Roberto Maldonado's office maintained a "clout list" of 100 people looking for county jobs, along with notations such as, "Refused to work on election day. Placed in tough shift."

The motion asked the judge to rule to show cause why Nichols, Robinson, Maldonado and former Ald. William Krystiniak -- whom Petraitis also identified as manipulating test scores to hire the clouted -- should not be held in contempt for violating the decree.

The Sun-Times reported Sunday that just after the elder Stroger's stroke this year, the county hired about 1,300 people.

Peraica called on the U.S. attorney's office to investigate. Todd Stroger said he had "no problem" with an investigation. Interim President Bobbie Steele said in a Sunday television interview she was "very uncomfortable" with reasons she was given for why some people were recently hired. In a statement Monday, she backed away from that, saying she has been told by county staff that 80 percent of the new hires fell into the "public safety" and "health" categories.


Contributing: Steve Patterson



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