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New training and protocols needed at Cook County, task force says after sexual harassment scandal

Friday, May 31, 2019
Chicago Tribune
by Juan Perez Jr.

New training and protocols needed at Cook County, task force says after sexual harassment scandal

Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears in Chicago on April 24, 2019. Her office established an anti-harassment working group in October.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears in Chicago on April 24, 2019. Her office established an anti-harassment working group in October. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

Juan Perez Jr.Contact ReporterChicago Tribune

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A new report says offices controlled by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle need updated protocols, better training and more transparency to respond to discrimination and harassment allegations.

That includes a call for the county to compare its employment policies with other jurisdictions and publicly disclose data from its Equal Employment Opportunity office. That office also should change its procedures to ensure it is following up on complaints, and identify a range of potential discipline that could arise during an investigation.

The recommendations come after Preckwinkle’s office established an anti-harassment working group in October amid misconduct allegations that prompted the dismissal of John Keller, the county president’s former chief of staff.

In September, Preckwinkle said she fired Keller for engaging in “inappropriate behavior on his personal time,” a disclosure that arrived just before the launch of her failed mayoral bid. But Preckwinkle knew of concerns regarding Keller’s conduct six months earlier, the Tribune reported.

Preckwinkle’s ensuing task force — made up of county employees, outside attorneys and consultants — released its review of county policies on Thursday. Its findings include results from an anonymous survey of some 1,500 employees, or slightly less than 60 percent of workers who received the survey.

“It is a top priority of my administration to create a workplace where employees and members of the public are treated with respect and support,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.

“The recommendations from the Working Group are thoughtful and practical and we already have implemented some of the action items and are working on the long-term recommendations.”

jjperez@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @PerezJr



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