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Consulting Deal Sweeter Than Acknowledged for Former Health Bureau Head

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Chicatgo Public Radio
by Ben Calhoun

Turns out the retired head of the Cook County Health Bureau is making more money contracting with the county than was previously acknowledged. Chicago Public Radio has learned that Dr. Robert Simon is making more than twice as much as Board President Todd Stroger previously said he would.

View a copy of Dr. Robert Simon's contract detailing his role as a consultant to an independent health board.

Simon was the head of the health bureau, which runs the countyís system of public hospitals and clinics. In April, he resigned after the county board voted to put the bureau under the control of a new independent health board.

While he was officially off the job, it was soon learned that he would be hired on as a consultant. That caused a stir because Simon has close ties to the Stroger family. And because at the time the Stroger administration indicated that Simon would be paid about $6,000 per month.

A copy of Simonís contract, obtained by Chicago Public Radio now reveals heís actually making more than twice that muchómore than $14,000 per month.

CLAYPOOL: When President Stroger initially made this announcement, he made no indication that Dr. Simon would be staying on.

Commissioner Forrest Claypool is one of board members who were taken aback by Simonís consulting deal and by indications from sources inside county government that Simon continues to have a very influential role over day-to-day activities at the bureau.

Claypool says the revelations about Simonís payment only add to his concerns.

CLAYPOOL: The system has been run incompetently and is in freefall and the independent health board hopefully can change that. But in the meantime having the leader of the system thatís failed continuing to manage it in the meantime contrary to what President Stroger promised is troubling, particularly at a cost to taxpayers of almost $200,000 per year.

While Simonís contract equals $175,000 a year, it officially runs only until October, so the value of the contract is for about $87,000.

The hook there, is because the total is less than $100,000, Stroger was able to create the contract without putting it in front of the county board for approval.

Doctor Simon was not available for an interview, but reached briefly by cell phone, he defended the arrangement. He says heís working to help transition to the independent board, which takes a lot of coordination.

He says the job is more than full time hours, even though his contract forbids him from working more than 30 hours per week.

The Stroger administration readily disclosed the details of Simonís contract. It would not, however, accommodate an interview request to discuss why Simon is being paid more than twice what was originally disclosed.

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