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Stroger still deciding if he will fight Oglesby's unemployment claim

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger hasn't decided whether to fight an unemployment claim filed by his ousted deputy chief of Staff Carla Oglesby.

The Cook County Board passed a toothless resolution Wednesday urging the lame duck Board president to fight an unemployment benefits claim filed by his ousted deputy chief of staff.

Stroger fired her last month after she was charged with stealing $300,000 from the county by rewarding her pals and her own firm a series of no-bid contracts for work that was allegedly never done.

But on Wednesday, Stroger was at once defiant and non-committal about whether he would fight the claim filed by Oglesby, who served as spokesman for his losing campaign in the February primary and joined his county staff weeks later as the $120,000-a-year deputy chief of staff.

After Commissioner Deborah Sims asked why commissioners were considering the resolution when the decision was solely the County Board president's, Stroger shot back at the majority of county commissioners who supported the resolution, including its original sponsors, Larry Suffredin and John Daley.

"They want to run the president's business, this is just a continuation," Stroger said during Wednesday's meeting.

Indeed, commissioners have tried to rein in Stroger's powers — voicing concern he would go on a hiring and spree as the county faces a budget crisis.

But Suffredin believes there's legal grounds for rejecting Oglesby's unemployment claim, which was filed with the state.

Under Illinois law, employees discharged for misconduct in connection with their work or let go for a felony or theft on the job may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

Suffredin and others are concerned that if an objection isn't filed, the benefits will automatically be granted.

Still others, including Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno wonder whether it's premature to fight the claim, since Oglesby has been charged — not found guilty — of a crime.

Pat Driscoll, an assistant state's attorney who advises the county on legal matters, was also asked to weigh in: "I think the prudent thing to do would be for the president's office to lodge an objection with the Department of Employment Security."

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