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Stroger's budget riddled with mistakes

Thursday, November 27, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mark J. Konkol

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's $2.9 billion budget proposal -- which he refused to release publicly after making his budget address on Tuesday -- was so rife with miscalculations that critics say it's nearly impossible to get a clear picture of the county's finances.

Opposition commissioners said the sloppy mistakes underline a "general incompetence" of the president's administration.

"I've never seen a government that put out a budget so chock full of errors, inaccuracy and misinformation. I don't even think they know their own financial picture," Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. "It shows remarkable ineptness and is symbolic of general mismanagement of county government that taxpayers pay a heavy price for."

On Wednesday, Stroger's staff "demanded" some commissioners return the error-riddled copies while corrected versions are being made.

The biggest problem with the budget document was in calculating the difference between 2009 budget line items and the 2008 spending plan. The 2009 proposed funding levels were subtracted from what individual departments requested rather than last year's appropriation.

County chief financial officer Donna Dunnings said budget department deputy Vincent Patterson -- a long-time employee with ties to Stroger's 8th Ward organization -- was responsible for the mix-up. Patterson has been written up and could face suspension, she said.

"Every aspect of this budget is screwed up," Commissioner Mike Quigley said. "This is the second time something like this has happened in three years. But it's never been this bad."



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