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TB board must notify prosecutors before awarding 'golden parachutes'

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times

A suburban tuberculosis board must notify state prosecutors if it tries to award employees and board members with "golden parachutes" on their way out the door.

Cook County Judge Mary Anne Mason ruled Wednesday that the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District can't take action on a retirement and severance pay plan unless it gives five days' notice of its plans to the Cook County state's attorney's office.

The agency, led by Dr. James Gallai, had been considering a taxpayer-funded compensation package that prosecutors said is illegal.

The move came as it appears more and more likely that the agency will -- like all other TB programs in Illinois -- end as a taxing district and fold into existing county health programs.

In spite of growing legislative support to dissolve the district, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has refused to move the legislation -- meaning it could be up to Cook County Board President John Stroger to do it.

Stroger could regain board control

Stroger appoints all five TB board members but lost control of the board in 2003 to TB board President Terrance Carr. Stroger is set to name two new appointees -- allowing him to regain control from Carr. That could mean the board will dissolve itself.

But before then, prosecutors are pursuing a civil case to block a plan to offer lifetime health insurance and up to six months' salary to select officials.

Carr, the Willow Springs mayor and son of former Cook County Commissioner Al Carr, has been improperly receiving health benefits from county taxpayers through the district, prosecutors also allege.

The board, which spends about $6 million a year, reports treating about 120 new TB cases each year. Last week, the TB board voted to spend $15 million from a Hinsdale land sale on a tax refund. It continues, however, to spend taxpayer money in Springfield fighting legislation to abolish it.



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