Was Sheriff Tom Dart wrong and playing politics?

The answer to the above question is yes if you ask the Cook County Board. I am thinking the Sheriff would have another answer.

The last Cook County Board meeting got really heated when the subject of cleaning came up at the Cook County Building. Under state law the Sheriff's office has to provide cleaning services to all building with Cook County Court rooms. Yes, the County Building has a courtroom in the basement for performing marriages. The Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart pulled all the janitors from this building when the budget was approved because he had to cut a lot of positions.
The board argued why did they all come from the County Building? Zelda Whittley, Under Sheriff was there at the board meeting to represent the Sheriff's department. Zelda said that they will use SWAP, ( the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program - S.W.A.P.) which these SWAP workers will be used for common area's and not offices. Zelda Whittley did say the Cook County Janitors employed by the Sheriff's department went through screenings including drug and alcohol, but the SWAP did not. Of course the Board wondered why they took all the Janitors from the County Building and not some from all over. Zelda Whittley did say that the layoffs were by seniority and they will be called back by seniority, but the Janitors were moved around to different courthouses after the layoffs. The board was still upset because Janitors that were at the County Building who were not layed off were relocated to other buildings. Commissioners: John Daley, Bill Beavers, Mike Quigley, and others called this move of eliminating Janitors at the Cook County Building where Todd Stroger and the Cook County Boards offices a political move by the Sheriff.
The Board voted on cancelling the contract of We Clean because it was too costly. Zelda Whittley did say that of the 61 Janitors layed off, 19 of them were still recieving benefits due to proven hardships. There were actually 83 janitor positions eliminated, only 61 of them were filled. When Commissioner Joan Murphy asked how may Cook County Sheriff's Janitors were cleaning the building before the budget cuts, Zelda Whittley said 35, when Joan asked We Clean they said they were using 21. Commissioner Murphy said to bring the 19 receiving benefits back and have them do the job since they are being paid benefits anyhow. All of the Board members liked that idea. There are also union concerns about laying off the janitors before 5 months which could also result in litigation costs. Todd Stroger insists he talks to the Sheriff's Department often and he will continue talks. Somehow I don't think Tom Dart and Todd Stroger golf or do happy hour together. Of course many janitors attended the meeting and were very happy with the Cook County Board by all the clapping, especially when they voted down renewing the cleaning contract.

One interesting thing that the Commissioner Schneider wanted to know if a Toyota truck bought from a Ford dealer was new? It was. He then asked why is a Ford dealer, Sutton Ford, selling a brand new Toyota Truck? He wants to know how that happened? Of course no one knows!

When workman's compensation approvals came up Commissioner Schneider brought up the fact that the same employee who was awarded $1000 for stress from her supervisor is here again with a claim for $5500 for getting tendinitis for pushing a cart with files. And another employee got 14K for injuries due to picking up a garbage can. The board is looking into different garbage cans and procedure's to avoid this type of expensive claim.

Commissioner Peraica asked Donna Dunnings, Chief Finance, cousin of Todd Stroger, walking without a walker at this meeting, why the final budget is not ready because it's been at least 40 days since it was approved? She said she is working on it with all the amendments etc.

Commissioner Peraica also asked why $20 million was being spend on Psychiatric services at Cook County Jail, Cermak Hospital, and the Juvenile Detention Center. He brought in a study from Columbia University that was done on over 8,000 people who were misdiagnosed with depression. He said if I ended up at Cook County Jail I would be depressed but who would not, the situation alone is depressing, but are they really depressed and in need of all the medications and Psychiatric services?
Commissioner Mike Quigley brought up the point, "I hope they don't survey people who watch Cook County meetings."

Zelda Whittley, the Under Sheriff was asked about the missing money from the Sheriff's department. She said that $99,000 was bank fees and $110,000 was accounting errors. Commissioner Peraica asked if the bank they were using was Seaway, she said yes. Commissioner Peraica asked, "of course the same Seaway bank that is already under investigation for bank fees of $186,000 in another Cook County situation". Commissioner Bill Beavers asked how long have they been doing business with Seaway and who was the bank they used before them. The answer was since 1994 and they did not have the answer to the previous bank readily available.

The board discussed Julia Nowicki, who with her staff is being paid $30,000 a month to go over each job, evaluate it and see if it is Shakman exempt etc. Many of the Commissioners were having a hard time meeting with Julia Nowicki, and she had cancelled many meetings with a few of them. Commissioner Deborah Sims said that she was able to meet with her but also suggested she meet with the whole board at the same time so that everyone is hearing the same thing. That is something the board agreed to and will work on that. Commissioner Peter Silvestri also said he met with Nowicki. The board also brought up that they have another inside department doing the same thing, and why? They also agreed they need an independent outside evaluation.

On a positive note from the Cook County Board concerning the Sheriff's department. The Sheriff is going to use $1,465,000 of money confiscated from narcotics to reinstate 15 sheriff's police officers to the narcotics division, bringing that total back to 35. Zelda Whittley also let the Board know that they just had one of the biggest drug busts in Melrose Park and that Cicero gang activity has increased and there are still many unsolved murders there. The Sheriff's department wants to use additional confiscated funds to get the canine unit back up to prior, before budget cut status, including training. The Board was happy about all of this. The Board also asked Zelda Whittley what money they receive from the State and Federal Governments. She said $400,000 from the State and $400,000 from the Federal Department of Treasury.

Commisioners Deborah Sims and Tony Peraica attended a State Screening at 76th(S) and Ashland for Breast cancer. They did bring up the fact that African American women have an increase in breast cancer and that early detection is the best way to prevent deaths. They also brought up the fact that the Cook County Health care system has a backlog of at least 9,000 waiting for breast cancer screening.

A lot of time was spend and arguing by the Board was spent on when is an item amended and when it is considered changed so much that it is a new item which goes to litigation for two weeks and costs more money as well as time on a refferal?

And of course Andre Garner was at the meeting, expressionless and occasionally taking notes. Notes on what? How to improve Todd's image so he can have another term as President?

OK, since I am on a roll. I saw the debate done by Carol Marin with Dorothy Tillman and Pat Dowell for the 3rd Ward Alderman. Dorothy Tillman should have been stopped from repeating herself, about Pat Dowell leaving the Mayor's office, and campaign funds from unions, Carol should have let Pat Dowell talk more. Dorthy Tillman was in her full blown usual form of arrogant, bold, in your face attitude. My early remembrances of Dorothy Tillman are her ripping a painting of Mayor Harold Washington off the wall of The Art Institute and going out the building with her big hat and entourage. I guess if the court would not approve removing the painting due to freedom of speech, she took things into her own hands. She was on the evening news almost every night on this issue, until she took it upon herself to act as she wanted, then there were repeated showings of her act. Maybe she was slapped on the hand? Maybe she wasn't.

Cook County meeting written by a professional writer
The Cook County Board voted 10-2 Tuesday not to approve a $357,000 no-bid contract with We Clean Maintenance and Supplies Inc., a private janitorial services company brought in to clean a portion of the county building after the lay-off of 61 union janitors.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 73, to which the laid-off workers belong, held a press conference prior to the board’s vote. They alleged the County violated a labor agreement that requires five months' notice of a decision to privatize work.
Workers were dismissed in early March, and their health benefits expired March 31. They won a temporary restraining order restoring benefits to 19 employees considered to have hardship claims. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is scheduled for April 23.
We have a contract that says you can’t make a final decision without a five month cooling period, during which we try to make adjustments in our rate to keep these jobs,” said Joanna Misnik, communications director for SEIU Local 73. “We have people on dialysis, people fighting breast cancer, and that’s why were seeking the injunction.”
The contract caused heated debate among the commissioners. Some wondered who's responsible for cleaning the county building. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office had historically overseen the cleaning services because a marriage court is located in the lower level.

The Clerk's Web Site down again?


  1. SP Biloxi said...
    "For the second year in a row, the clerk's office forgot to pay its $85-a-year Internet bill, and the office's Web site went dark over the weekend."

    The clerk's office should get the bonehead award. The office forgot to pay the internet bill for the office's Website? What kind of idiots work in the clerk's office?
    Third Generation Chicago Native said...
    Yep.....and there is all out feud going on between Toddster and the Sheriff, at least the Sheriff is not letting Toddster off easy.

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