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Cronyism is the star of Stroger's hiring show

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Chicago Tribune

The front page news Monday was Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's hiring of two men with criminal records.

We have no quarrel with Stroger on that.

Both men paid their dues more than a decade ago, and neither was convicted of a hanging offense -- one admitted to involvement in a club fight, the other to making threatening phone calls.

America is about second chances, and Cook County government should be no different.

More practically, if you impose a ban on hiring people who made dumb mistakes when they were young, you eliminate a lot of good possible hires.

But this is not a story about redemption, a tale to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This is a story about clout.

Both men -- James D'Amico and Myron Colvin -- are the brothers of state lawmakers. One of them, state Rep. Marlow Colvin, is also Stroger's best friend.

Yes, taxpayers, what we have is yet another episode in the "Todd Stroger Friends and Family Show."

Regular readers of this page may be growing tired of the show, as are we, but just try to move on. The "Todd Stroger Friends and Family Show" is like one of those cable TV shows that always pops up. No matter what channel you turn to, there it is. Sort of like "Law and Order," except the good guys don't always win.

When Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson asked for the resumes of the two men last week, the Stroger administration wouldn't cough them up. That was just the latest instance of the administration's refusing to provide resumes.

In effect, the Stroger administration is telling taxpayers: Really, these are good, qualified hires. Just trust us.

If only we could.

Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins gave the usual response that his boss could hire whomever he wanted to fill the two vacancies, because the jobs don't fall under a court decree banning patronage hiring.

True enough, but doing what's technically legal is not the same as doing what's right.

Stroger supporters can point to as many other politicians as they like who hire friends and family and question why the Stroger administration takes so many knocks.

Stroger, though, gets the attention because he has seemingly perfected cronyism in such a short time in office.

We would love nothing more than to never write about this again.

But this looks like one show destined to go on forever.



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