Todd needs more than a lot of overpaid PR people
Stroger to hire public relations consultant
April 7, 2008
By Steve Patterson, sun-times news group
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger already spends more than $1 million a year on public relations, but that apparently isn't enough.
Stroger is set to bring on a public relations consultant, records show, to help improve his image and that of the hospital system he runs.
But critics wonder why Stroger needs outside consultants, as he's got 15 employees on his public relations staff now, and an independent board will take over hospital operations in just a few weeks.
"Of the multitude of problems facing the health bureau, (public relations) is the least of them," said Jay Stewart, of the Better Government Association. "President Stroger should save the money, no matter how difficult that may be for the administration, and let the independent board decide how to use the money on things like actual health care services."
Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi wouldn't say what Stroger plans to spend on the consultant or where the money will come from. Nine people responded to Stroger's request for proposals soliciting bids for the public relations contract. Antongiorgi said the consultant will report to Stroger and his communications chief, Gene Mullins.
Mullins is taking a one-year leave from his city police job to work for Stroger, a childhood friend.
Antongiorgi said the contract is important, because "it is critical that we communicate with our poor and uninsured, letting them know what services are available to them."
Though five public relations staffers are dedicated to health and hospital issues, she said the new consultant will begin "a comprehensive and strategic media outreach plan. We want to regain and maintain the confidence of our patients and residents."
Stroger's public relations staff is larger than that of many other county governments across the country, records show, but it's hardly the most expensive.
Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan's communications chief, Lucio Guerrero, makes more than $120,000 a year, though he said he's also in charge of about a dozen people, heading up outreach and research.
Stroger's top public relations staffer, Mullins, is budgeted to be paid $105,059 - and Stroger still employs all of his former spokesmen in other, comparably salaried positions.
"The need for yet another (public relations) consultant or staffer for President Stroger is ridiculous," Stewart said.