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Cook County workers will have to log inquiries from elected officials

Monday, April 18, 2011
Chicago Tribune
by Erica Slife

Cook County employees will have to log contacts with elected officials as part of what new County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said today is an effort to end a “history of political favors and backroom deals.”

“I spent 20 years in the City Council struggling for more open government, and for fairness, and I carry that same commitment into my present office,” Preckwinkle said at a news conference. “We’re doing the best we can not only to bring on a good team, but to do that in a way that is consistent with our obligations under the Shakman decree.”

The Shakman case is part of a long-running lawsuit over politics in county and city hiring. In 1998, the county agreed in federal court to log political contacts as part of the landmark consent decree barring most political hiring. But the county never formalized the political log process or created a specific log form, Preckwinkle’s office said. The log, which will not be available to the public, will be an official record of employee correspondence with any political person or organization regarding specific employee actions.

Under the new system, county and forest preserve district workers will be required to log contact with elected officials regarding employee actions in a new database that will be maintained by the county’s inspector general.

The ethics initiative came as Preckwinkle defended her hiring of former Ald. Shirley Coleman as a deputy secretary, who will work in the Secretary of the Board’s office coordinating agendas for the county and forest preserve. Coleman was voted out of office in 2007.

“First of all, she’s somebody I know, so, I know her as an elected official. Does that mean that politics plays a role in it? Well...” Precwinkle said. “She’s somebody I know and I have confidence we’ll do a good job in that position…It’s an exempt position which are filled at the discretion of the executive.”



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