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Cook Board officials' Hawaii trip under fire

Thursday, June 09, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County Board President John Stroger and several commissioners are attending a conference next month in Hawaii, prompting some of their colleagues to question the expense and appearances of the trip.

Stroger is taking along five staff members, at a cost of about $10,000, because Cook County is hosting the annual National Association of Counties conference next year, spokeswoman Caryn Stancik said.

Five commissioners also said Wednesday that they planned to attend the conference, most of them taking at least one staff member with them.

Most of the commissioners argued that they are active in the association and regularly attend its conferences, regardless of the location.

Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) said she is taking two staff members who will help staff the booth Cook County is required to have on display as the 2006 host.

Still, Murphy said she recognized that some may criticize county employees attending a conference in Hawaii, and she has decided to pay her staffers' airfare and lodging out of her own pocket.

"We are having money problems at the county. I don't want to add to it," Murphy said.

Commissioners Jerry Butler, Deborah Sims and Bobbie Steele, all Chicago Democrats, are also taking staff members with them to the conference. Steele and Sims have both been active with the association for years.

"Cook County ought to be happy to have somebody active at the national level," Steele said.

Stroger, a past president of the association, serves on its board, along with Commissioners Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago) and Carl Hansen (R-Mt. Prospect). Maldonado is attending the conference, but Hansen said he is still undecided.

Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) said he attended one of the association's conferences years ago and did not find it worth the time or money.

"At a time when you're in fiscal crisis, it's like rubbing salt in the wound to go to Hawaii," Quigley said.



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