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No Surprises: Stroger Using Patronage To Reward Friends

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 14, 2010 2:00PM

2009_09_10_toddler.jpg Federal hiring monitor Mary Robinson issued a report this week detailing something that the rest of Cook County has been well aware of for some time now: Todd Stroger has been using his position as Cook County Board President to hire and fire people based on political allegiances. Robinson noted in her report to the federal court that is overseeing hiring in Cook County and the City of Chicago that while progress has been made on removing political influence from the hiring process in Cook County, “since losing his primary bid to run for reelection, the president has aggressively used his legal authority to make unilateral exempt hiring and firing decisions to reward supporters and part company with those who were disloyal.”

Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins disagreed with that assessment, however. “That’s not true,” Mullins told the Tribune, saying that employment moves made by the county were based on performance or qualifications. But Robinson's report (which you can download from the Tribune here) cites several instances of hiring that appear to contradict Mullins's statement. For example, three painters with political connections were put on the county payroll over other applicants who were better qualified and had gone through an internship program. Three snow plow applicants failed to provide driving records as part of their application - but they did have letters of recommendation from highway department bosses. And one county employee who was friends with the person who blew the whistle on the Carla Oglesby affair was fired.

In any case, Robinson concedes that the wheels of justice turn slowly when it comes to county hiring. She says that federal oversight of county hiring, which began just before Stroger took office, is unlikely to end soon.