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Preckwinkle Taps $43,000 Raise for Staff Member

By Soyoung Kwak in News on Feb 12, 2011 7:30PM

2010_01_22_preckwinkle.jpg Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been pushing for a substantial pay raise for one of her newest staff hires, and questions are starting to circulate. Preckwinkle has been pushing for a $43,000 pay raise for Mary Laraia, who is "second-in-charge" at the Cook County Forest Preserve. Laraia has been a contributor to Preckwinkle's aldermanic campaigns in the past, and Laraia contributed $2,250 to Preckwinkle's campaign last year. If the raise is approved, Laraia's salary will jump from $111,908 to $155,172 per year, which Commissioner Liz Gorman pointed out was almost a 40% raise.

The pay raise is being justified through counts of Laraia's extensive experience in the business and the potential for her to bring about changes within the Forest Preserve's administrative atmosphere:

Forest Preserve General Supt. Arnold Randall responded that Laraia's duties are expanding beyond the "executive assistant to the superintendent" job title of Laraia's predecessor in the No. 2 post and that her pay and new title - expected to be deputy superintendent - will reflect that.

"We want to make some significant changes and reforms to the district, and, frankly, Mary Laraia, with her experience in finance and administration, brings a whole new level of expertise to the role," Randall said in an interview.

It is not very surprising that people are thinking this is all a little fishy. However, Preckwinkle is unfazed and is standing behind her recommendation for Laraia's pay raise:

In an interview, Preckwnkle responded by saying: "I'm not excluding people who contributed to my campaign from working for the county. She's a very smart and intelligent person. We're lucky to have her."

Very lucky, apparently.