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The Spin: Pritzker launching first campaign ads | Cook tax board brawls about hiring relatives, ethics | In Chicago, AG Merrick Garland is asked how new gun strike force differs from previous federal law enforcement efforts

Friday, July 23, 2021
Chicago Tribune
by Lisa Donovan

In a lot of ways Cook County government is a bureaucracy stuck in another time. For all the good government groups and watchdog journalism shining a light on nepotism, my Tribune colleague Alice Yin has a story about how a county elected leader who hired her cousin to serve as her chief of staff triggered not only an ethics probe but a political battle.

Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt is now defending the hire after refusing to discuss it during a public meeting last month when the two other board members — fellow Democrats — pressed her on it. Tempers flared and before the meeting was over, Wendt was on the losing end of a vote to amend ethics policy to forbid the hiring of first cousins. Already, the board’s ethics officer said the hire violated policy.

Wendt’s hiring of a relative is not without precedent at the Board of Review, the three-member panel that manages property tax assessment appeals. When Joe Berrios, the onetime head of the Cook County Democratic Party, was on the board, his sister and son worked in the office. When he was later elected Cook County assessor he brought them with him — and faced a similar ethics battle.


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