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Commissioners trim salaries, benefits for some county boards

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Lucrative salaries, along with health care and pension benefits will be slashed next year for a handful of political appointees whose work on various Cook County boards are tantamount to part-time jobs.

Salaries for the five-seat Employee Appeals Board — whose members include Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli and Juan Ochoa, the former CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority — will go away altogether under a measure passed Wednesday by county commissioners. Members will receive a stipend of $500 per meeting — with salaries capped at $12,000 annually — and members will no longer receive pension and health care benefits.

Currently, regular board members, who meet monthly to hear the appeals of demotions and firings of non-union employees, earn $34,765.60 annually, with $20,226 in benefits. The board chair receives $43,080.96 with $21,720 in benefits.

Similarly, the county’s five-member Zoning Board of Appeals — which meets up to four times monthly to consider zoning appeals in unincorporated Cook County and can call public hearings — will say goodbye to their current salaries, along with pension and Blue Cross Blue Shield health care benefits. They’ll earn a $500-per-meeting stipend with a $12,000 annual cap.

Currently, the chair earns $43,081 annually with another $21,728 in benefits, while the members earn $34,678 and another $20,226 in health and pension benefits.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has the authority to select members who sit on the boards and those appointments are approved by county commissioners.

The County Board delayed a vote until December on compensation for members of the Sheriff’s Merit Board, which conducts hiring tests and disciplinary hearings for sheriff’s police, correctional officers and deputies.

Required to meet just four times annually, the nine-member board’s current compensation package includes a $26,000 annual salary for sitting members and $31,000 for the chair, with all receiving pension and health care benefits. The Sheriff’s Office could not provide a dollar amount for those fringe benefits.

As the cash-strapped county government looks to trim pension and other costs, commissioners say they’re going to take a harder look at lesser-known boards to see whether it’s appropriate to shrink their compensation packages.

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