Juvenile center may get interim leader.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
by Ofelia Casillas and Robert Becker
A new boss could be coming to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center after a week of intense negotiations, the latest twist in the troubled institution's saga.
Attorneys from Cook County and the American Civil Liberties Union have agreed to ask a federal judge Wednesday for more time to negotiate the hiring of a "transitional administrator," sources from both sides confirmed Tuesday.
The administrator could have substantial control over much of the center's operations, including hiring and firing, according to Benjamin Wolf, an ACLU attorney.
"There are the broad outlines of an agreement that would include a person that we are now calling 'a transitional administrator' that would have the authority to bring the center into compliance," Wolf said.
"The County Board and President [Todd] Stroger have the same goal as the ACLU in this matter, which is to improve the lives of the children at the JTDC," said Jennifer Koehler, spokeswoman for the county. "A lot of the details are still to be worked out, but we are all working together."
A transitional administrator would take the place of the receiver the ACLU had petitioned a federal judge to appoint -- a move opposed by the county.
The exact scope of the new administrator's power has not yet been worked out, and both sides acknowledged that it would take more time to come to a consensus.
But on Tuesday the Cook County Board authorized its lawyers to enter into an agreement with the ACLU, which has been battling with the county in court for years over violent, chaotic conditions at the Cook County juvenile center.
Details about the potential agreement, presented to commissioners in a closed session, were not made public. County sources said the deal with the ACLU could include an administrator with power over the superintendent of the facility, while the County Board would continue to have veto power over the center's budget.
"It sounds like a hybrid [alternative] to a full-blown court trusteeship," one source said.
Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, chairman of the litigation sub-committee, said the county was looking for an solution to the center's problems short of federal court control.
"This avoids the county facility from being placed in receivership," Silvestri said. "We are concerned and very frustrated with the status of that facility. It needs to be improved."