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Sheriff OKs deal to ban political hiring
FEDERAL COURT | Calls for hiring watchdog, lets workers file claims

Friday, September 12, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
by MARK J. KONKOL

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Thursday agreed to settle a federal lawsuit that seeks to eliminate political hiring in his office.

The proposed deal calls for appointing a federal hiring watchdog to keep tabs on the Sheriff's Department and could pay workers who claim to have been passed over for promotions or new jobs for political reasons. Cook County taxpayers would pick up the tab for those settlements.

Dart said he sought out a settlement to save money on legal fees and put questions about patronage hiring behind him.

"We proactively sought this settlement -- not because of any claims or litigation, but because we want to be an open book and provide clarity both internally and externally about the way our office operates," Dart said.

"There are no investigations; we've not been held in contempt; we . . . indicated our desire to reopen this to ultimately bring closure to it."

Part of the agreement calls for allowing Dart's current inspector general, former FBI special agent Joe Ways, to keep his job, Dart's attorney Richard Shannon said.

Any of the Sheriff's Department's 7,000 employees who claim they were denied promotions for political reasons dating back to June 2006 will be allowed to file claims seeking monetary damages. Settlement details, including who will be appointed as the hiring monitor, are expected to be finalized by U.S. District Judge Wayne Anderson at an Oct. 30 hearing.



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