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Juvy center reformer fired
Commissioner's relative gets new county post

Monday, April 02, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

A nationally recognized expert in juvenile justice issues brought in to help reform the troubled Cook County Juvenile Detention Center has been ousted from his job.
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger says budget cuts are to blame for the removal of Carl Sanniti.
But a spokesman couldn't say who decided Sanniti would lose his job, while the sister of a county commissioner, who has no background in juvenile justice, is keeping her job.
"The budget mandated we eliminate high-paid managers and preserve front-line workers," spokesman Steve Mayberry said. "We didn't cherry-pick by names, we cut positions and were responsible to taxpayers."
'Just another patronage job'
But the County Board's most vocal critic of center operations says Stroger is "playing politics with the leadership at the juvenile center."
"[Sanniti] came there on a mission, he came there to change things, unlike other people," Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. "For them it's just another patronage job."
Sanniti, who had helped run other juvenile facilities across the country, was hired last year as one of three assistant superintendents at the center.
Maria Moreno Szafarczyk -- sister of Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno -- was hired in 2005 as an $85,000-a-year assistant superintendent, but last year she was given a new title, director of community outreach, before the county began slashing jobs to balance a $3 billion budget.
Those cuts meant one assistant superintendent had to go. With Moreno-Szafarczyk given a new title, Sanniti was cut, while Robert "Pete" Catchings and Robert Scott remain as superintendents.
Abuse by staff
Mayberry couldn't say if Stroger or center director J.W. Fairman decided who to cut, but said the decision came only after discussions with several county commissioners, including Moreno.
Sanniti could not be reached Sunday, but the ACLU's Benjamin Wolf hailed his hiring last year, saying he brought "independent, experienced, competent leadership."
While Sanniti and other outside experts were brought in last year to help overhaul the center, recent reports from those experts say some staff are blocking reforms, while abuse by staff continues.
Fairman, a longtime political ally of Stroger's family, continues to run the center, though there are efforts to shift control to the office of Chief Judge Tim Evans.
Evans, however, has not been involved in any of the recent leadership decisions.


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