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Stroger wants employees to sign confidentiality agreement

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Just 18 months ago, Todd Stroger was campaigning for office on a promise to make Cook County government more open and transparent.

Now, though, the County Board President is forcing anyone who works under him to sign a confidentiality agreement — promising they won’t disclose anything he deems “confidential” that they “learned, disclosed or observed” while on the job.

They must also promise never to disclose information after they leave their job.

Not even Mayor Daley requires such obedience from his employees and those familiar with Gov. Blagojevich’s operations don’t believe he does, either. But Stroger is making those closest to him — department heads, bureau chiefs and anyone working in his PR operation — sign it.

“These are the people who are supposed to be loyal to him to start with,” said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Association. “What’s it say about him that he doesn’t trust his own people? They serve at his will, yet he feels he can’t trust them. That speaks volumes.”

The confidentiality agreement covers several publicly available records, including county communications, internal personnel rules, correspondence to or from Stroger, his phone records, email and personal schedule.

Lawyer Laura Lechowicz-Felicione, who drafted the confidentiality memo, said it’s the second time Stroger has had employees sign such an agreement, dubbing it “really just an extension of our ethics ordinance.”

She said Stroger wants to “protect records that are truly confidential” and ensure public records “go through the proper channels” before being released.

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