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Maldonado denies seeing clout list

Sunday, July 31, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times

From all appearances, it is a "clout list:"

Who should be pushed for government jobs; which current employees should receive promotions.

Who did the right amount of political work and who fell short.

The 1998 list -- obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times -- reportedly was created, kept and updated by employees of Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado.

Maldonado confirmed he knows many of the 100 people on the list. He admitted "coordinators" on the list have been heavily involved in his 26th Ward Democratic Organization, such as Jimmy Barreto, who last year got a promotion and raise at the Cook County Forest Preserve.

But Maldonado insists he never saw the list until the Sun-Times showed it to him last week at his Northwest Side mortgage office.

"I would never do this," he said.

The list includes comments like "Refused to work on election day. Placed in tough shift" and "I'm not int. in pushing this. Pol production does not seserve" (sic).

He said it would be "stupid," "crazy" and "absolutely wrong" for any politician to keep such a list.

He shook his head as he reviewed comments such as "will help him after next election," "OK by Sheriff" and "placed."

"You think I'd write something like that? Huh? Hello? Even if I think it, I'd never do that," he said.

Maldonado 'gave me the job'

Some on the list told the Sun-Times that scenarios described did happen with them -- and admit they campaigned for Maldonado.

"I'm still active in his (political) organization -- actually I'm one of his drivers," said a Cook County Forest Preserve employee on the list.

A Circuit Court Clerk employee on the list said Maldonado "gave me the job."

Asked if she talked to anyone else, she said, "I really don't think so. Just Commissioner Maldonado. He's the only one I know," admitting she canvassed voters on Maldonado's behalf.

Another county employee said when he did not help out on Maldonado's campaign because of commitments at his county job, "there was friction" and "one guy was real upset," though it wasn't Maldonado. He didn't know if his subsequent assignment was given in retaliation.

Maldonado not only denied it was his list, but said in his entire political career, he has never once picked up the telephone to recommend someone be hired for a county job -- or punished. He tells people where to apply through the proper channels, he said.

"The fact is, I have no clout," he said, noting the county's work force is only 8 percent Hispanic. "Have I urged people to go find jobs? Absolutely. Do I track it? I don't. That is one list I didn't make."

The list notes officials such as Dawn Catura in the chief judge's office and Daniel Stralka at the Clerk of the Court who were contacted to help get jobs for people on the list. Maldonado said "I don't recall" calling either of them.

Catura, Stralka and others recall Maldonado periodically asking for jobs for his supporters.

"Maybe once every three months, I'd talk to him," Stralka said. "We'd just kind of run into each other and if he had something, he'd ask me about it."

"They [county commissioners] all refer names over here," Catura said. "We grant them the courtesy of an interview, like we would anyone. Nine times out of ten, that does not result in a job."

Ryan, Daley aides had lists

About half the people on the 1998 list still hold county jobs.

Some county officials said Maldonado is one of the less pesky of the 17 commissioners in seeking jobs for people on the "clout lists" some of them keep.

Federal investigators found a "priority list" of those who had jobs or needed one on the computer of Gov. George Ryan's former right-hand man, Scott Fawell.

They found a similar color-coded list of politically connected people to be approved for city jobs in the office of Mayor Daley's patronage chief, Robert Sorich, who is charged with mail fraud.

Fawell is in prison.

Friday, former city water director Donald Tomczak admitted patronage drove hiring at City Hall .

The city scandal focuses on violations of the federal Shakman Decree, which prohibits political hiring and firing in city and county offices. Any hires made because of a recommendation from Maldonado's office over qualified, less-clouted applicants would appear to be a violation.

A Hispanic rising star

With a $3 billion budget, 25,000 jobs and less media scrutiny than the city, the county has long been a fountain of patronage jobs for local politicians -- the same kind of patronage hiring that got federal prosecutors' attention at City Hall.

Federal authorities have been scrutinizing patronage hiring at the county as well. Maldonado said he has not been contacted by the FBI regarding the list.

In January, Maldonado said he knew nothing about a federal investigation into a county hospital contract and said he had not received a subpoena about it.

But a day later, he admitted he had been subpoenaed to turn over campaign documents to the FBI.

The $49 million contract with Faustech Industries, a now-defunct company that donated to Maldonado's campaign, was revoked after a judge raised questions about it. A grand jury investigation was launched.

Maldonado, in his third term on the county board, has been touted as the potential first Hispanic statewide office holder. His backers wanted him named state comptroller had Dan Hynes won the U.S. Senate seat now held by Barack Obama.

Born in Puerto Rico, Maldonado has been a relentless advocate for better Hispanic representation on the county's work force. He is a close ally of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago).

An employee on the list said he helped campaign for Maldonado and Gutierrez. He said he "knew I was on a list, I heard it was almost like a recommendation list, but I never asked to be" and that "a friend said (Maldonado) could help me."

In addition to names of employees, the seven-column spreadsheet list includes their current jobs, a job they'd like, who their "area coordinator" is, and comments.

Coordinators, like Barreto and former 1st Ward alderman candidate Tom Hendrix, who served 30 months in a federal prison for soliciting a murder for hire, are or were top operatives in Maldonado's campaigns, said Maldonado.

Hendrix got a $68,000-a-year job as a Cook County Hospital administrator.

The list is sorted by county department. For instance: 44 people sought hires or promotions in the sheriff's office; 22 in the Forest Preserve.

Sheriff Michael Sheahan said through a spokesman he never talked with Maldonado about jobs for supporters.

Four sheriff's deputies on the list just dropped $3,500 in Maldonado's campaign coffers in recent months.

Jobs in the forest preserve, the list shows, were to go through Orlando Jones -- County Board President John Stroger's godson and former chief of staff.

Forest Preserve spokesman Steve Mayberry said the district follows Shakman rules for hiring and promoting employees, adding "Whatever involvement Orlando Jones had in any decision during his tenure as chief of staff, you'll have to ask him directly."

Jones did not return calls.

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