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Quigley-led critics hit Stroger for budget changes

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has ignored entire board amendments to his budget and is proceeding as he wants, a group of commissioners charged Tuesday.
Led by Chicago Democrat Michael Quigley — who voted with Stroger on his budget — the commissioners complained that Stroger has gone beyond the tinkering traditionally allowed to smooth out mathematical errors or slight discrepancies that inevitably result during the hectic, last-minute budget process.
“The president’s office has very limited authority to alter the Cook County budget,” Quigley said. “A cursory analysis of the budget as posted just a couple weeks ago details at least $20 million worth of alterations that took place without any authority or discussion. … This is an intrusion upon the legislative process. It is violation of our rules and our laws.”
Rich Velazquez, newly hired as special counsel to Stroger disagreed, however, over the scope of the changes.
“The changes in the budget are not substantive. They’re in line with what the intent of the board was,” he said.
Velazquez, however, admitted he wasn’t familiar with the specifics Quigley was alleging, and could not even say whether his own position had been authorized by the board.
Stroger staffers said that one of Quigley’s examples, a $1.5 million reduction to the assessor’s office, occurred because that funding level was contingent upon the county selling land in Oak Forest. The sale has not yet occurred, so the funds are not available, they said.
Quigley maintained the changes were bigger than that, and accused the administration of making wholesale changes to get rid of its enemies while hiring its friends.

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