The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Guess which Cook County Commissioner Hired a Friend this Week

By Hunter Clauss in News on Dec 19, 2008 10:50PM

joseph_mario_moreno_8.jpgLooks like Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno took advantage of the county’s “family-and-friends hiring plan” again. The Sun-Times reported this week that Moreno, a close ally to the Stroger family, used his political clout to get a lucrative hospital contract for a campaign supporter and friend, Ronald Garcia. The Feds and the county’s inspector general are now looking into the matter.

Garcia, who has donated more than $10,000 to Moreno’s campaign fund, runs Chicago Medical Equipment and Supply. The firm was hired by Med Assets Inc. as a minority-owned subcontractor to help with Cook County’s hospital billing collection. But it’s unclear whether Garcia’s firm was hired purely on its qualifications. Moreno allegedly told interim hospitals chief David Small that minority contractors were favored for the deal, which apparently led to a meeting between Garcia and the president of Med Assets. Garcia’s firm, however, was recently kicked to the curb by Med Assets when it found out it was being overcharged by 135 percent. Dr. Luis Munoz, another buddy of Moreno and chairman of the hospital audit committee, successfully pushed for an audit of Med Assets after it fired Chicago Medical. Moreno denies he had any influence over the whole situation.

Med Assets won the multi-million dollar contract in March. At the time, the county wasn’t collecting unpaid hospital bills, which cost taxpayers an estimated $110,000 per day. Moreno wanted to give the deal to another firm, ACS Healthcare Solutions, but those talks broke off when ACS surfaced in the investigation of a former Las Vegas hospital official, Lacy Thomas, who was under indictment and also once ran Stroger Hospital. (Neither ACS or anyone associated with ACS has been accused of any wrongdoing.)

This isn’t the first time Moreno has been accused of pushing friends and family into government jobs. In 2005, Moreno’s sister, Maria Griselda Moreno Szafarczyk (say that ten times fast), received a top job at the county’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, which critics say is a political dumping ground. Gee, we wonder why.

Photo taken from Cook County website.