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Cook County Board President Todd Stroger names new chief of staff
Former Chicago Park District executive once was Stroger's boss

Sunday, June 01, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's new chief of staff is a former Chicago Park District executive from Bridgeport who once gave his new boss a job.

Joseph Fratto, 52, an accountant who serves as the county's comptroller, is taking a more conciliatory tone than his predecessor, Lance Tyson, whom some commissioners found strident. Fratto is pledging to reduce the number of county workers and to get yearly budgets passed on time as Stroger heads into a re-election effort in 2010.

"We have to judiciously use our resources," Fratto told the Tribune on Friday. "I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that, since our budget passed and our sales tax passed, that we are going on a spending binge."

Critics have argued it'll be easier for Stroger to get a budget through after this year's 1-percentage-point sales tax increase that's expected to raise $426 million a year.

Fratto said he wants to cut the payroll to 22,000 employees from the current 23,700. He said it's yet to be decided where cuts would take place and added they could be accomplished "without layoffs and through attrition."

Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-
Evanston) is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I think Joe understands what's necessary for prudent management, but I think he now has to convince the president that his approach is the rational and sane way to run the government," said Suffredin, who provided a crucial vote in favor of Stroger's sales-tax increase in return for a new board to oversee the county health-care system.

Fratto also said he wants to introduce Stroger's annual county budget proposal earlier so that a repeat of past logjams can be averted. The bickering County Board routinely blows past its Dec. 1 deadline to pass a budget, but Fratto said if Stroger does "what's in the best interests of the county and the residents of the county . . . I think he'll get what he needs, and you won't have to contend with the politics of the situation."

Fratto succeeds Tyson, Stroger's first chief of staff, who left to practice law.

Fratto started as the Park District comptroller in 1981, rising to deputy superintendent. He hired Stroger as an aide, a post in which Stroger worked for a brief period, helping primarily with debt issuance, Fratto said.

In 1994, Fratto became trustee and executive director of the Park District employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund, where he worked until Stroger hired him as comptroller in February 2007, just months into his administration.



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