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Cook County watchdog heading for the exit
Patrick Blanchard, the county's first and only Independent Inspector General, has led investigations touching nearly every county agency and many elected officials.

Friday, September 18, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by A.D. Quig

Cook County’s first and only Independent Inspector General, Patrick Blanchard, is heading for the exit.

First tapped for the job in the fall of 2008 and reappointed in 2014, Blanchard’s term has included investigations touching nearly every county agency and many elected officials, including recent high-profile findings on Gov. JB Pritzker’s property tax toilet debacle, Cook County Health finances, old-school hiring practices at the Board of Review, and the misuse and abandonment of Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s county SUV on election night in 2016.

Blanchard is also a patronage watchdog, monitoring potential violations of the landmark Shakman decree barring political considerations in county hiring. He is also managing a review of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

But he won’t step down right away. Blanchard is slated to stay in his role until October of 2022, allowing for a lengthy transition and a nationwide search to find his replacement. Preckwinkle is planning to reappoint Blanchard for a two-year term (shorter than the traditional six) at next week’s Cook County Board meeting, according to the Board agenda.

Blanchard didn’t suggest he was being pushed out. “I am set to wind down my 30 year term of service with the County and we believed that this 2 year term could be used as a good transition period and allow the comprehensive selection process to proceed,” he said in an email. “The process could take 8-12 months.”

He’s also tussled with former Assessor Joe Berrios, helped win federal convictions related to a kickback scheme, and busted Forest Preserve District workers on camera partying with minors. Aside from those, Blanchard says he’s most proud of his solid investigations, including “a subject who received a 29 day suspension, triggered by serious misconduct and an OIIG [investigation that] came to me and thanked us for our professionalism during the process that culminated in his suspension. I continue to receive a smile and hello from that same person today.”Before serving as Inspector General, Blanchard was a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney for 15 years and led the Special Litigation Division. He was also an associate attorney at Clausen Miller Gorman Caffrey & Witous, P.C.

 



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