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Stroger defends hiring pals ...
Says he's still working on list of which top staffers must go

Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporter

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger on Monday defended his hiring and promotion of political allies and friends to top posts by saying, "There is no way we are going to let the inmates run the asylum. I need someone that I can trust."
Since taking office two months ago, Stroger has pushed a 17 percent across-the-board budget cut that he said will result in layoffs at some departments.
Asked Monday to name a single higher-paid friend, relative or member of his 8th Ward Democratic organization that will be laid off -- aside from his father's patronage chief Gerald Nichols -- Stroger told the Sun-Times editorial board he was still drawing up a list of who among the 500 "Shakman-exempt" employees he can fire will be let go.
Criticizes Devine, Dart
Upon taking office, he promoted his best friend's wife, Carmen Triche Colvin, a member of his ward organization, from her $95,000 job as purchasing agent for the Cook County Forest Preserves to a $116,000 post as purchasing agent for the whole county -- a job his cousin, County Budget Director Donna Dunnings, told the editorial board has been vacant since June.
Did he do a search?
"I hired the purchasing head of the Forest Preserve," Stroger said. "Are you telling me there's something wrong with hiring someone you know for a job? I've known Carmen for 35 years."
Asked about others he has hired or promoted, Stroger said, "Their only crime is that they know me."
Stroger expressed frustration with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and State's Attorney Dick Devine, who he said refused to cut their budgets as other county officials have.
"Devine and Dart have been the only ones who have jumped up and said, 'We can't do it. We're too important,'" Stroger said. "The sheriff can cut police officers. [Devine] doesn't need three attorneys in the misdemeanor courts."
The cuts must be made because he and county commissions oppose a tax hike, Stroger said.
As he appeared with Dunnings and three other county officials, three bodyguards and an aide waited in the hall.


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