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'Uncaring thugs'

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Chicago Tribune

The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center was such a disaster, so dangerous, and so infused with incompetent hacks running the place that a federal judge finally stepped in last year to strip control from the county government and hand it to an independent monitor.

But the Cook County bureaucrats are still managing to destroy the place.

As the Tribune's Ofelia Casillas reported Monday, Earl Dunlap, the nationally recognized expert appointed to run the juvenile center, is crying out for help to fill jobs with decent, competent people.

He has 175 vacancies he needs to fill. And he says "a substantial number" of the people who do work at the center are "incompetent, uncaring thugs."

He has a crisis. But the Cook County bureaucracy only drags its heels. "At every turn, I have been prohibited from doing what I need to do," Dunlap said. "I call it the art of deflection."

Not that anyone needed more evidence that the center is in crisis, but when a melee broke out in February that injured 16 youths and 10 staffers, it should have set people hustling at the county to get Dunlap some help.

But what do you get from Cook County? Listen to the response from Eugene Mullins, a spokesman for County Board President
Todd Stroger: "Part of the problem has been a failure of their staff to provide the human resources director with current job descriptions. You have to get approval of the job descriptions before you can post the job."

That's the problem at the juvenile center! They don't have enough job descriptions!

And here we thought the problem was the bug-infested bathrooms and graffiti-covered walls, the chronically absentee staffers, the slipshod security and the woefully incompetent management that was larded with 8th Ward patronage hacks.

Turns out it's the missing job descriptions.

U.S. District Judge John Nordberg appointed Dunlap last year when it became too hard to ignore the disaster at the juvenile center. The Illinois legislature passed a law that took control of the center from Stroger's office and gave it to the chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court.

And yet the grossly incompetent Cook County bureaucracy still stands in the way of answering the crisis.

Judge Nordberg, how about appointing a federal monitor to run the Cook County government?

All of it. The whole thing.

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