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Stroger names new chief of staff as term nears end
COOK COUNTY | Picks ex-boss of troubled job-training program

Sunday, August 08, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

With just four months left in office, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has tapped a new chief of staff.

Karen Crawford, 47, the former head of the county's troubled job-training program known as POET, has been appointed to take over after current chief of staff Joseph Fratto leaves in September for a job with the Cook County treasurer.

"The president says she has a wealth of knowledge concerning county issues," Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins said of Crawford. And Crawford, a CPA, has the financial background Stroger says someone leading his staff needs.

Crawford has been with the county since 2003 and has contributed money to Stroger's failed re-election bid as well as the 8th Ward Democratic Organization built by his father.

She was tapped to lead the troubled POET --the President's Office of Employment Training -- program back in 2006 but left the job earlier this year. While Mullins said Crawford made it "stable," the state has repeatedly criticized the program for its spending and accounting practices.

Approximately $8.4 million was returned to the state by POET between 2003 and 2008, "which could have been used to provide training for nearly 5,000 south suburban and west suburban residents," according to a statement issued this summer by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The state agency said it's considering all options, including taking over the job program, according to the same statement, issued in June.

That same month, Stroger moved Crawford to a $120,000-a-year deputy comptroller job, while state Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) was tapped to take the reins at POET. It's unclear whether Crawford will also be taking her predecessor's $181,867 annual salary, or how her pension will be impacted by the move.

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