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County Board approves $31M election equipment contract despite lawsuit; $11M to settle 2 malpractice lawsuits

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Gregory Pratt

Cook County commissioners on Wednesday approved a nearly $31 million 10-year contract for election equipment despite a lawsuit filed over the bidding process.

The county board also approved settlements in two medical malpractice lawsuits for nearly $11 million combined, making them two of the largest in Stroger Hospital’s recent history.

The election equipment contract goes from October 2018 through September 2028 and includes two one-year renewal options, officials said. It’s worth $30,999,891 to its vendor, Dominion Voting Systems in Denver.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said the move is necessary because the county’s equipment is old and newer equipment is more technologically advanced and better equipped for security purposes. The county has been talking about getting new equipment for years, he said.

“This is an important step for the county even though it’s coming later than I hoped,” Orr said.

Losing bidder Election Systems & Software filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court after it protested the bid results. Election Systems & Software said it previously protested to the county that Dominion’s “proposed voting system was not compliant with Illinois law, and likewise could not meet the requirements of the (request for proposals), because it had not been certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections,” but was denied, the company’s lawsuit said.

READ MORE: The midterm elections are coming — here's a cheat sheet to get you through »

READ MORE: Cook County sees surge in voter registration ahead of midterm election »

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the company’s protests have been “thoroughly investigated” and reviewed, and the county intends to proceed with acquiring the equipment.

“We get sued all the time,” Preckwinkle said. “It’s hard for me to predict what the adjudication will be in the court.”

Meanwhile, commissioners voted to settle a lawsuit alleging that a woman’s artery was cut during a 2013 pacemaker surgery at Stroger Hospital and the surgical error led to complications. The board approved paying $6.45 million to settle claims over the death of 55-year-old Hermelinda Toro.

The doctor involved in the lawsuit is alleged to have been negligent in cutting Toro’s artery during a pacemaker insertion and not quickly recognizing the bleed, an internal memo to commissioners said. The doctor also had surgical performance issues and had been placed on probation, the memo said.

Kathryn Conway, the attorney representing Toro’s estate, previously said the woman’s death was “a completely preventable tragedy in our mind.”

The other lawsuit, settled for $4.5 million, involved the 2011 death of Mary Christine Tadros. In that case, Tadros, 31, died after going to Stroger Hospital for removal of an infected wisdom tooth, records show.

She had known issues, including a narrow airway, but the medical team “failed to protect” her airway during their work, the lawsuit said.

Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO John Jay Shannon said settlements aren’t an admission of malpractice or wrongdoing.

“We’ve got processes in place that review whenever there are adverse events in the hospital,” Shannon said. “Those processes then are handled through peer review and root cause analysis as any major health system would do.”

In other news, six candidates will be interviewed in October to be executive director of the Cook County Pension Fund, Pension Committee Chairwoman Bridget Gainer said.

Twitter @royalpratt

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