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Preckwinkle moves to hire vendor to run county's sick-leave program

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

In a remarkable admission that Cook County can't be trusted to properly run itself, county President Toni Preckwinkle is moving to hire a private firm to manage the sick-leave program throughout county government. Ms. Preckwinkle late today announced that she has formally begun to seek a third party to administer the county's absence and leave program for workers. Prospective vendors "are being asked to provide a one-stop-shop call center for all county-related absence reporting and tracking," a press released issued by Ms. Preckwinkle says. "This would include a centrally managed absence program and a streamlined process that offers more uniformity." The release notes that in fiscal 2011 the county logged an average of more than six sick-leave hours per employee per month — almost double the national standard for a unionized workforce of 3.6 hours. The decision to seek an outside vendor comes at the recommendation of a task force that included county Sheriff Tom Dart and Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown. The release quotes Mr. Dart as praising the program and saying his office has worked to reduce paid leave. But I'm not quite sure how all of this will fly with other countywide officials, who are independently elected. The new system potentially will apply to requests for worker compensation, Family and Medical Act leave and other disability, but not vacation. "We decided to issue this request for proposal to make sure all county offices are held accountable, for the first time, to a uniform set of performance standards," Ms. Preckwinkle says. The county overall has 96 agencies, commissioners' offices and bureaus. Bids are due back from vendors in May, with the county hoping to hire a firm by early fall.

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