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Forest Preserve Pays $500K for Political Hiring, Preckwinkle Announces New Forest Preserve Team

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 16, 2010 4:55PM

2010_12_16_Forest_preserve_dist.gif A hiring settlement between the Cook County Forest Preserve and job seekers who said they were passed over for less-qualified, politically connected hires will cost taxpayers $555,772.

The Cook County Forest Preserves' court-appointed hiring compliance administrator, Jan Carlson, wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court yesterday that the hiring process was manipulated to benefit the politically connected hires, dating back to 2005. One case, which Carlson called "egregious," involved placing a forest preserve police candidate on a "failed" test list despite scoring 66 percent on the exam in favor of one who was hired with a 49 percent test score.

The Forest Preserve is one of many County Departments Board President Toni Preckwinkle is looking to remedy in her early days in office. Hiring watchdog Michael Shakman noted the district's "sorry history" of political hiring. Yesterday Preckwinkle announced former mayoral planning and development head Arnold Randall as Forest Preserve Superintendent, and Mary Laraia as Deputy Superintendent. Preckwinkle is charging the two with carrying out the reform of the district that was a foundation of her campaign.