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160 patronage complaints filed
COUNTY | Federal monitor will now investigate allegations

Saturday, August 04, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

More than 160 people filed official complaints with a federal monitor, alleging they were passed over for jobs or promotions in Cook County government.
Friday was the deadline to submit patronage complaints from August 2004 to February 2007 if the person hopes to collect any penalty as a result.

Staffers in the federal monitor's office will now begin sorting the complaints and investigate them over the next 90 days.

"We've got complaints from people who thought they should have gotten a promotion, who thought they should have been hired, who thought they were wrongly laid off," retired judge and court-appointed monitor Julia Nowicki said. "Now, we'll try to organize them in a uniform manner before we dive in."

That investigation is expected to put an unprecedented microscope on the hiring process for jobs in the County Board president's office and county hospitals.

Though Nowicki's staff is working without subpoena power, "we've had excellent cooperation from the county and fully expect that to continue," she said.

Board President Todd Stroger's office fought an effort to extend the reporting deadline into September. County attorney Laura Lechowicz-Felicione said current and laid-off employees were repeatedly notified of the Friday deadline.

Still, should late complaints come in with a valid reason for tardiness, they'll also be included in the investigation.

The compliance investigation is part of a federal consent decree that provides most county jobs to be filled without consideration of politics.



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