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Sheahan rebuffed again on jail choice
Sheriff loses appeal over appointment

Thursday, July 14, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

The Illinois Appellate Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that found Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan violated state law by appointing a jail director who wasn't among the finalists recommended by an advisory panel.

"If the sheriff has a problem with the statute, his complaint should be directed to the legislature," Justice Themis Karnezis wrote in an opinion in which Justices Thomas Hoffman and Leslie Elaine South concurred.

Sheahan's lawyers are reviewing the ruling, and the sheriff hasn't decided on his next course of action, said sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham.

The ruling prevents Callie Baird, former head of the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards, from returning to her role as director of the county Department of Corrections.

Baird will remain a special assistant to Sheahan, which has been her role since November, when a Circuit Court judge removed her from the jail post, Cunningham said.

Scott Kurtovich, a veteran jail administrator, will remain acting director while the search continues for a new director, Cunningham said.

Two of the three advisory panel members who sued Sheahan over his choice for jail director have since been replaced, setting the stage for Baird to possibly be among the three finalists in the new search.

William Hooks, the lawyer for the three men who brought the lawsuit that forced Baird's removal, said Sheahan could seek review by the Illinois Supreme Court but that would cost taxpayers even more for the legal fight. The Cook County Board has already approved more than $130,000 to pay for lawyers on both sides of the dispute.

The fight began two years ago when Sheahan appointed Baird to run the jail after she had been bypassed by the advisory panel, the Cook County Board of Corrections.

Under state law, the board selects three finalists and forwards the names to the sheriff to pick the director. Baird was among the top five candidates, and Sheahan argued that the panel's selection was merely advisory.

"The lesson today is `shall' shall apply to you, me, even the sheriff of Cook County," said R. Eugene Pincham, one of the lawyers who opposed Sheahan's move. "He's the highest law enforcement officer in the county. He's obligated to follow the law like everybody else."

 



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