Cook County sheriff joins ranks of governments with hiring monitor
Friday, September 12, 2008
by Rob Olmstead
The Cook County Sheriff's Office became the third local government Thursday to agree to take on a federally appointed hiring monitor.
Like Chicago and the Cook County president's office, the sheriff now will employ a hiring monitor to investigate employees' complaints of hiring, firing and promotion discrimination based on political affiliations.
But unlike the previous two monitors appointed, Thursday's agreement came not at the point of a judicial gun. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart - who is also subject to the decades-old Shakman agreement - came forward with the proposal to head off any potential problems, both he and lawyers for plaintiffs said. At the time Dart approached the Shakman team, his office had just one hiring discrimination lawsuit filed against it, a lawsuit that was later dismissed.
"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," said Dart in a written statement Thursday.
As with the city and the county president's office, those who feel they were discriminated against after June 1, 2006, can now submit a claim to the hiring monitor, said attorney Brian Hays, an attorney for Locke, Lord. Bissell & Liddell, one of the law firms for plaintiffs in the case.
For future complaints, the sheriff's inspector general will be in charge of investigating complaints. That post is now filled by Terry Hake, a respected former U.S. Justice Department official who went undercover for the FBI decades ago to expose bribery of the Cook County judiciary in Operation Graylord.
Thursday's agreement was approved by U.S. District Judge Wayne Anderson, who oversees the landmark Shakman case, named after its original plaintiff Michael Shakman, a lawyer who still works on the case. The hiring monitor likely will be named and appointed at the end of the month.
The sheriff's office may not be the last to take on a hiring monitor. Open-court discussions have revealed that both the Cook County Forest Preserves and the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office have entered into negotiations with Shakman in regards to claims of political discrimination there.