When the Cook County Board
voted in February to put an independent board in charge of hospitals,
one of the main reasons was to end political patronage hiring.
And while the new board, which started in June, hasn't
had a lot of time to institute changes, two recent personnel moves may
give an indication of whether it is living up to its charter.
Most recently, the system rebuffed an attempt to move
the county board president's deposed budget director into the hospital
system. Sources confirmed that administrators for county board
President Todd H. Stroger attempted to move former budget director
Jarese Wilson into a county hospital job. While hospital administrators
indicated a willingness to look at her credentials, they declined to
simply put her on the payroll with no questions asked, sources said.
That's a departure from past practice at the hospitals.
For instance, county Commissioner Joseph Mario Mareno's
sister got a key administrative job at the Cook County Juvenile
Temporary Detention Center, even though she had no correctional or
detention center experience. Later, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit
effectively forced the takeover of the center from Stroger's
administration, and Moreno's sister was fired. But she quickly landed a
plum administration job in the hospital system despite having no health
care experience. Budget documents still list her as being employed
Despite the Wilson rejection, another recent personnel
move at the hospital shows those in the system with connections aren't
Hospital board members were surprised at a recent board
meeting when interim CEO David Small introduced Deb Fortier to them as
the CEO's new attorney. The appointment came despite the fact that the
position didn't even have a job description yet, and a permanent CEO
job search hasn't yet been concluded.
Fortier once served as counsel to county Recorder of
Deeds Eugene "Gene" Moore but was laid off in 2007. She landed a job at
the hospitals system as a project manager for patient support services,
budget documents show.
Administrators there say she was on board before they
arrived. "She already had a job (here)," said Warren Batts, chairman of
the hospitals board.
After making a $400 campaign donation to Stroger on May
4 of this year, she secured the promotion to the CEO's legal adviser.
Hospital administrators say the two events have nothing to do with one
another, and Fortier's move was simply part of a systemwide review of
all employees' qualifications to see if they are needed.
Fortier, said Batts, simply had qualifications that did
not match her old job, but had a legal background, which was needed.
"We badly needed a lawyer ... so she was given a chance to show she
could do the job," Batts said. "If it doesn't work out, she's an
But Batts conceded board members were caught off guard by the announcement.
Batts said he was unaware of any rebuff of Wilson, but
noted she had been very helpful to the system during the budget process
Wilson wound up with a job in Cook County's Information Technology department.
Wilson could not be reached for comment; Fortier declined to comment.