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Tiff with boss costs Cook County $1,000

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

The next time you get in an argument with your boss, ask yourself afterward if you’re OK.
Are you sure? Maybe the stress of it has left you with post-traumatic stress disorder.
That’s what a clerk at the Cook County circuit court clerk’s office argued — and the county board voted Tuesday to give her $1,000.
The award was given despite the vociferous objection of Democratic Commissioner Earlean Collins of Chicago.
“Because if she could get $1,000 (for an argument), I should be able to get $200 million,” said Collins to the laughter of the audience at Tuesday’s county board meeting.
County lawyers explained that the $1,000 was simply a nuisance settlement, a token offer to avoid spending even more money than $1,000 in legal fees.
“It’s just a question of economics,” said Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno of Chicago.
Pat Driscoll, the chief of the county state’s attorney’s civil bureau, said that the employee, Marie A. Balestri, filed a claim for workman’s compensation after a June 5, 2000, argument with her boss, whose name he didn’t know.
The deal was a good one for the county, Driscoll said, because the woman took four months off after the incident, none of which was paid for by the county and which would have cost significantly more than $1,000 had the county granted the claim. Balestri was diagnosed by a licensed professional and even received medication, he said. He had no details on the argument itself.
Balestri could not be reached for comment, and her lawyer, Noel E. Johnson, said she had inherited the case from a previous lawyer who went to another firm and couldn’t continue the case. Johnson would not give out that lawyer’s name.
Still, Collins said she thought giving any money for post-traumatic stress resulting from an argument with a boss could set a dangerous precedent.
“We’re opening the doors here for some serious problems,” she said.
In other matters Tuesday, Cook County President Todd Stroger again refused to release additional details about Stroger Hospital contracts he has asked the county’s inspector general and state’s attorney to investigate. He said there appear to be some improprieties and that he couldn’t comment further because of a looming criminal investigation. Health bureau chief Robert Simon said one contract, and possibly two, might be terminated because of the suspected improprieties.


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