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Co-pay for taxpayers? Ousted Cook County Health CEO in line for ‘rich severance’ of half a million plus
On top of that severance payout, the county health system will likely shell out more money to find Shannon’s permanent replacement.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times
by Rachel Hinton

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When the board of the Cook County Health System voted to oust Dr. John Jay Shannon as CEO in November, it triggered a domino effect that could prove costly for taxpayers.

Shannon, who made $517,500 leading the county’s health arm, is entitled to one year’s salary and one year of COBRA medical insurance benefits, ringing in at roughly $25,000, according to his contract, Caryn Stancik, a spokeswoman of the health system said.

The health system also boosted the salary of Shannon’s interim replacement, Debra Carey, by 10% for “the duration of her tenure as interim as is our practice,” Stancik said. That bump means her current salary is $461,032.

On top of that severance payout, the county health system will likely shell out more money to find Shannon’s permanent replacement — search firms are currently being evaluated so no formal recruitment process has begun, Stancik said.

The last search for a CEO cost the health system about $145,000.

Shannon has not yet been paid any severance.

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who wrote the ordinance that gave the health system its independence from the county’s Board of Commissioners, said he’s looking at the contract and a law aimed at public officials that recently went into effect that could potentially cap Shannon’s severance and COBRA payments to 20 weeks.

“I find my role is to make sure we follow the law on the board, and that’s what I’m trying to do here,” Suffredin said. “If it’s valid, it’s valid. If not, then [I] need to take some action, and I want to do it before anyone gets paid out. This is a rich severance considering the circumstances of the contract, and going forward I would make sure there’s more oversight of contracts before they’re entered into with the next CEO.”

At that November meeting, all 10 members present voted not to renew Shannon’s contract, which expired Dec. 31. The board named Carey, the deputy CEO of the health system, as Interim CEO beginning Jan. 1, while Cook County Health searches for a permanent replacement.

County sources and commissioners have said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — who appoints the 11-member board — has been concerned with the direction of the health system.

Preckwinkle’s spokesman, however, denied she had any role in the vote, and in a statement, the county’s top official said she was grateful to Shannon.

“This is a critical moment for the future of Cook County Health,” the statement said. “Now is the time for new [Cook County Health] leadership and vision to continue to fulfill the health system’s historic charitable mission while directly addressing the tough financial and operational challenges ahead.”



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