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For whom the budget tolls becoming clear

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Five days after the county board passed a 2007 budget, the true cost in terms of layoffs began to emerge as the president’s office released an accounting of just what was cut.
With most of the heads now counted, there are 2,192 jobs eliminated — 1,703 live bodies and 489 already-vacant positions, board President Todd Stroger’s office said. That’s up from the numbers administrators gave out Thursday, the night the budget was passed. Then, administrators put the count at 1,720 positions, about 1,200 of them actual people.
“The number provided on the evening of the budget was, at that time, an ongoing estimate and not reflective of the numbers fully taking into account all amendments or having been reconciled. That process is continuing, and final numbers will likely be available by week’s end,” Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said.
“It’s not going to (change) much (by Friday),” said Takashi Reinbold, director of data services for the county.
Immediately, however, several public officials said the administration’s numbers were wrong, and that the true toll was even higher.
While Stroger’s office pegged cuts at the state’s attorney’s office at 101.7 positions, spokesman John Gorman said the office has already laid off 100 people and eliminated 44 vacant positions.
Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Sheriff Tom Dart, said the president’s number of 128.4 jobs removed was wildly off. They put the number somewhere closer to 290 to 300.
“That’s wrong,” added Maria Pappas, referring to the administration’s number of 13.7 jobs eliminated in her office. She put the number at 19 or 20.
Reinbold said in the case of the state’s attorney’s office, the discrepancy may be due to Dick Devine laying off people in anticipation of what would be mandated by the final budget, not the number that actually was cut.
In the sheriff’s case, he thinks the discrepancy is due to the administration calculating net positions lost, while the sheriff is looking at number of gross positions actually being cut. In the former case, it does not account for additional jail guards being added to the budget, a result of a federal judge’s mandate. Still, Daly said that while the net change may be lower, there are at least 266 actual people losing their jobs.
And even though the budget vote was five days old as of Tuesday, the battle for whose proposal — Stroger’s or a group of commissioners’ — cut more fat went on.
Commissioner Forrest Claypool had pushed a budget amendment that he claimed cut 400 more “patronage” supervisory positions than Stroger initially offered, with the savings going to restore front-line workers such as doctors, nurses and cops.
Commissioner Mike Quigley pointed out that not all those 400 were supervisory positions. Some included road engineers or building department architects. One of Claypool’s allies, Commissioner Larry Suffredin, agreed with Quigley on that point.
Stroger’s number released Tuesday said that offices under his control purged 347 jobs at the county’s pay grade of 18 and above — a crude, but generally agreed-upon method of designating those jobs that are supervisory. That was out of a total of 1,489 jobs cut from offices under the president, Stroger’s office said.
Some supervisory jobs that were not cut, however, included:
•John Rita, the father of a state legislator and the liaison to unincorporated Cook County. Several commissioners who serve or served as township officials in the suburbs said they had never heard from him when they served there. He makes $90,229.
•Charlie Hernandez, the Democratic committeeman of Cicero Township, is listed as an investigator in the office of the chief administrative officer. He makes $68,160.
•Barclay “Bud” Fleming, a former county commissioner listed as an assistant director of planning and development. He makes $87,479.
•Two siblings of Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele and the daughter-in-law of Commissioner Joan Murphy.
All six had originally been slated to be removed under the proposal that was defeated.
Also remaining on the job is Maria Moreno-Szafarczyk, sister of Commissioner Joseph Moreno. She makes $85,000 as an assistant superintendent of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center supervising training. Moreno-Szafarczyk had no relevant experience when hired. The JTDC had three assistant superintendents. Only one was let go.


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