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Hiring monitor slams patronage
COUNTY GOVERNMENT | Board members loyal to Stroger grill Nowicki

Thursday, April 10, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

In the world of Cook County patronage, it's known as "The Rule of Seven."

That means the first seven applicants for a job who meet minimum qualifications are the first ones interviewed -- giving a huge advantage to anyone tipped to a planned opening.

That was just one of a series of dirty little secrets that emerged Wednesday amid allegations about Cook County hiring practices.

Don't worry about having your references checked, passing a typing test or being quizzed on whether you really know Microsoft Word -- county officials haven't been doing any of that.

Staff defends policies

Those allegations came from a court-appointed monitor who has been scrutinizing county hiring procedures since November 2006.

County Board President Todd Stroger's staff took exception to nearly every criticism hurled their way, either denying the claims or promising change is in the works.

During the hearing, Stroger's most loyal board members hammered the hiring monitor, Julia Nowicki, over her claim that patronage problems still exist in the county.

Doubtful about deadline

Asked if patronage remains alive in county government, Stroger replied, "not that I know of. And if there is, it doesn't flow from me."

But Nowicki, who monitors about 12,000 jobs under Stroger and at the Bureau of Health, said she has hundreds of old and dozens of current patronage complaints -- including claims an entire department under Stroger is a patronage haven.

Nowicki is monitoring hiring until December, at which point county officials must convince a federal judge they're following the law and she's no longer needed.

Stroger said he expects that deadline to be met, but Nowicki is doubtful, questioning Stroger's willingness in "informing himself about what's going on in each department."

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