Cook County Jail inmate collapses, dies at hospital

May 22, 2008

A 51-year-old Cook County Jail inmate arrested on retail theft charges died Wednesday after collapsing at a hospital.

Cook County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Penny Mateck said an inmate who was being released from Stroger Hospital collapsed and died Wednesday.

Stanislaw Wolak, an inmate at the jail, died while in police custody, the Cook County medical examiner's office said. He was pronounced dead at Stroger at 8:03 p.m.

The inmate was brought into the jail Monday after being arrested on retail theft charges. He was being held on $2,000 bond, Mateck said.

After being booked into the jail Monday, he was taken to Stroger Hospital for an unknown reason. He was released from the hospital Wednesday and, under the supervision of two corrections officers, was set to return to the jail at 2700 S. California Ave.

However, he collapsed in the hallway of the hospital as he was leaving, according to Mateck.

Cronyism is the star of Stroger's hiring show

May 20, 2008
The front page news Monday was Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's hiring of two men with criminal records.

We have no quarrel with Stroger on that.

Both men paid their dues more than a decade ago, and neither was convicted of a hanging offense -- one admitted to involvement in a club fight, the other to making threatening phone calls.

America is about second chances, and Cook County government should be no different.

More practically, if you impose a ban on hiring people who made dumb mistakes when they were young, you eliminate a lot of good possible hires.

But this is not a story about redemption, a tale to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This is a story about clout.

Both men -- James D'Amico and Myron Colvin -- are the brothers of state lawmakers. One of them, state Rep. Marlow Colvin, is also Stroger's best friend.

Yes, taxpayers, what we have is yet another episode in the "Todd Stroger Friends and Family Show."

Regular readers of this page may be growing tired of the show, as are we, but just try to move on. The "Todd Stroger Friends and Family Show" is like one of those cable TV shows that always pops up. No matter what channel you turn to, there it is. Sort of like "Law and Order," except the good guys don't always win.

When Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson asked for the resumes of the two men last week, the Stroger administration wouldn't cough them up. That was just the latest instance of the administration's refusing to provide resumes.

In effect, the Stroger administration is telling taxpayers: Really, these are good, qualified hires. Just trust us.

If only we could.

Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins gave the usual response that his boss could hire whomever he wanted to fill the two vacancies, because the jobs don't fall under a court decree banning patronage hiring.

True enough, but doing what's technically legal is not the same as doing what's right.

Stroger supporters can point to as many other politicians as they like who hire friends and family and question why the Stroger administration takes so many knocks.

Stroger, though, gets the attention because he has seemingly perfected cronyism in such a short time in office.

We would love nothing more than to never write about this again.

But this looks like one show destined to go on forever.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger says he's worked out his differences with the county's public defender. Stroger had tried to fire Ed Burnette from his post.

Cook County commissioners were scheduled to hold a hearing yesterday to decide if Burnette was fit to keep his job. But Stroger says the two met on Monday morning...

STROGER: And what do you know, we agree on a lot of things.

Neither Burnette nor Stroger would give details about that meeting. Some county commissioners have said Stroger wanted to fire Burnette because Burnette filed a lawsuit after his budget was cut. Stroger says retaliation wasn't the issue.

STROGER: I've never tried to run his office and don't plan to. I just abide by the law and as the law states, to hire certain people, he has to talk to me. And what has happened is he hadn't talked to me. So I didn't know who he wanted to hire.

Burnette says even though he and Stroger are on better terms, he hasn't withdrawn his lawsuit. The public defender's office provides legal services to those who can't afford representation.

Cook County judge accused of Tinley DUI loses bench seat, for now"

A Cook County judge accused of driving drunk in Tinley Park almost two weeks ago has been stripped of her duties on the bench.

Sheila McGinnis, arrested after she slammed into a minivan carrying two young children on May 9, has been assigned to restricted duties in the office of First Municipal District Presiding Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr.

McGinnis, 47, of Chicago's Beverly community, only will perform administrative duties at Wright's office in the Richard J. Daley Center, Chief Circuit Judge Tim Evans said. Her new assignment began Tuesday. She previously oversaw criminal cases, including some involving drunken driving, at the Bridgeview courthouse.

"In order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary while taking into consideration the nature and severity of any charges against or implications of improper conduct by a judge, Supreme Court Rule 56 provides that a chief judge may temporarily assign a judge to restricted duties or duties other than judicial duties," Evans said in a statement released Tuesday.

McGinnis, a former Cook County prosecutor who is related to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, is accused of driving drunk about 7:30 p.m. May 9 in the southbound lanes of Harlem Avenue at 182nd Street in Tinley Park. McGinnis was weaving from lane to lane, flashing her brights, sounding the horn of her 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer and striking the curb south of 171st Street before she rear-ended a 2005 Chevrolet Uplander waiting at a red light, according to a Tinley Park police report.

A Joliet woman who was driving the Uplander, which also was carrying another adult, a teenager and two young children, got out of her vehicle to tell McGinnis to stop because the judge was still trying to drive forward with her head on the steering wheel, police said. When police arrived, McGinnis told an officer she was driving home from work at the Bridgeview courthouse, police said. She refused sobriety tests and would not answer any questions, police said.

Drivers arrested for drunken driving who refuse to submit to chemical tests lose their driver's licenses for six months.

McGinnis was charged with drunken driving, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and no proof of valid insurance. No one was injured in the crash.

McGinnis was elected in 2002. A woman in her Bridgeview courthouse office referred calls to Evans' office. Last week, McGinnis said her attorney told her not to comment, though she has yet to identify her attorney.

To avoid a conflict of interest, a judge from outside of Cook County will preside over McGinnis' case, Evans said. McGinnis is due in court June 6.

Last week, Evans reassigned McGinnis to civil cases. The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges, also can file charges against McGinnis, Evans said. A judicial commission would then decide what, if any, disciplinary action would be imposed, such as removing McGinnis from the bench.

The Tinley Park police report detailing McGinnis' crash and charges was not part of a batch usually available to the public. Tinley Park police provided the report after a SouthtownStar Freedom of Information Act request, but several personal items normally part of police reports, such as her driver's license number and home address, were blacked out. Police also issued a press release about the accident, though Cmdr. Rick Bruno said they weren't treating McGinnis any differently than another person accused of a crime.

Things aren't going smoothly in Toddlerland

If Joe Birkett were Lt. Governor, and Judy Baar Topinka were Governor this would be front page news, instead of a small article a few pages into the paper.

Under the cloak of darkness, Berwyn's most famous pop icon was dismantled late Friday, skewering any hopes of saving the "Spindle."

Activists had been fighting to preserve the towering stack of eight cars, impaled on a silver spike, in Cermak Plaza, near Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue, where a Walgreens is to be built.

A last-ditch effort had placed the structure for sale on eBay two weeks ago for $50,000. But the rusty tower, featured in the 1992 movie "Wayne's World," garnered no bids.

"I regret that we didn't have some kind of warning," said Berwyn Ald. Michele Skryd (4th), who acknowledged the structure was on private property. "It just seems really a shame it was handled in this manner."

The "Spindle" has been a contentious issue within Berwyn, with some people passionately defending it and others despising it.

Skryd likened the dismantling to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's unannounced, infamous midnight raid in 2003 to demolish Meigs Field, the small lakefront airport.

Bill Beavers, is now a member of the Fashion Police.

Bill Beavers now turned fashion Critic
There's a laundry list of problems at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, but a county commissioner on Wednesday found another one - the attire of the center's director.

Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago) publicly criticized Earl Dunlap, asking him if he owned a suit and lectured him that "your appearance commands respect" and that he's "supposed to be a role model."

Dunlap, wearing a white polo shirt tucked into Dockers pants, responded that "I command respect by the way I conduct myself" and told Beavers "the last person I need to be judged by is you."

"I've got bigger fish to fry ... than whether I've got my Armani suit on," Dunlap told reporters later.

Dunlap is a no-nonsense, nationally recognized juvenile center leader brought in by a federal judge to clean up the Cook County center that long has been plagued by patronage hiring and allegations of abuse of youths and filthy conditions.

Beavers, county board President Todd Stroger's floor leader, is a longtime politician and a product of the Democratic machine known for his flashy suits and unapologetic defense of patronage. Some of Stroger's advisers seemed to cringe Wednesday at Beavers' criticism of Dunlap.

The spat at the county board meeting came as commissioners questioned the amount of overtime being spent at the juvenile center. Dunlap said OT is necessary because almost half of the center's 500 jobs are vacant or occupied by workers who repeatedly call in sick or are on some sort of medical leave.

A federal judge is set to rule today on Dunlap's request to temporarily bring in private security guards to work overnight shifts until hundreds of jobs can be filled. That less-demanding shift is desired by senior security staff, but Dunlap wants to move more experienced workers to open jobs on the day shift.

Dunlap said filling jobs has become more difficult because applicants must meet tougher standards since the center was taken over by Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

It appears Todd is the biggest offender of patronage

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has forced unqualified people into jobs on the public defender's payroll.

Those charges were made Wednesday by Public Defender Ed Burnette, who is fighting to keep a job he was appointed to five years ago by Stroger's father, John Stroger.

One supervisor hired by Stroger was so unqualified, Burnette said, "I had to find something for him to do" because he couldn't do public defender work. Attorney Richard Velazquez was hired to defend the poor but never saw a courtroom, instead becoming Stroger's attorney.

Burnette said while his office defends the poor, Stroger believes certain jobs there "belong to him and he can fill them as he sees fit." He adds that people were "sent to our office" for jobs based on their political connections, not legal background.

Burnette said John Stroger largely kept politics out of his office, but that has changed under Todd Stroger.

Todd Stroger defends his right to fill some positions based on political patronage. His spokesman Gene Mullins said Burnette "never once reached out to President Stroger and told him he had people not doing their job. That's part of his failure to effectively manage his office."

A hearing is set for next week on what Todd Stroger claims is "just cause" for firing Burnette. While a majority of the county board initially supported the move, that number is dwindling.

Stroger's office also recently launched an investigation into Burnette's hiring of one-time political candidate Jonathan Bedi -- who applied for a public defender job years ago, but only got a call while challenging state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) in the February primary.

Bedi's hiring was first questioned in a Chicago Sun-Times story in March, as was Stroger's hiring of high-paid administrator Ron Burleson, who once worked at Stroger's health club. Stroger's office has failed to answer a standing request for Burleson's resume.

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