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Berrios Keeps Family, Friend on Payroll as Others Laid Off

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 21, 2011 2:00PM

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has made clear that the county government needs to make tough cuts to balance a $470 million budget deficit. County Assessor Joe Berrios has complied by laying off 53 workers from his department. But readers familiar with Berrios' records should not be surprised that his sister, son and daughter were not among those laid off. And Berrios found room in his department budget to hire a woman who's long been rumored to have more than a professional relationship with him, as well as her son.

WGN's Mark Suppelsa staked out Berrios and Vicki LaCalamita, Berrios' new Director of Human Resources, last week to get some answers regarding Berrios' naked nepotism and patronage. Berrios has long denied anything stronger than a friendship with LaCalamita, whose son also has been hired by Berrios, but Suppelsa's report includes interviews with a former friend of LaCalamita who boasted of trips to Las Vegas with Berrios when he was on the County Board of Review and other instances of being feted by the Assessor.

Also with Berrios and LaCalamita when Suppelsa caught up with them was the Assessor's sister and a property tax attorney. In addition to charges of nepotism and patronage, Berrios has long been accused of being a bit too cozy with some property tax attorneys whose cases came through his office at the Board of Review and now at the Assessor's office.