Some city hiring plaintiffs say settlements too low

March 28, 2008 3:53:00 PM PDT
There's frustration over the method used to compensate victims from the city of Chicago's rigged hiring system.Twelve million dollars was handed out to those who could prove they were passed over for jobs or promotions because they lacked clout.

The settlements were awarded as part of the Shakman lawsuit.

Many of those who received settlements claim the award system is flawed. Some received just a few hundred while others got $100,000 in settlement money. A federal monitor decided who got what from the fund.

The maverick son of an alderman got $75,000. Others who were bumped off hiring lists in favor clouted-up candidates got just over $1,000.

And that brings us to Jimmy Bertucci.

Make no mistake, the Bridgeport native had clout but apparently not enough of it.

"I thought I deserved the maximum being that I applied so many times and kept getting denied, denied, denied over and over," Bertucci, a sewer department worker.

For 32 years, Bertucci toiled as a simple city sewer department laborer. He earned roughly $60,000 a year and coveted a foreman's job which paid $80,000.

"Probably applied 20 to 30 times throughout the years," he said.

Despite the fact that Bertucci's name appears on the City Hall clout list and despite doing some political work for the 11th Ward, Bertucci says he never got very far after meetings with convicted city patronage chief Robert Sorich.

"I went in and had meetings with Robert Sorich and I was supposed to be promoted. They call me back a few weeks later and said they had to bypass me again because the mayor owed an alderman a favor, so I had to get bypassed again," Bertucci said.

That was the argument Bertucci made in his claim to the federal monitor charged with distributing a total of $12 million to people who took financial hits because of the city's rigged hiring system. The son of powerful alderman Bernie Stone will be receiving $75,000 because, the monitor found, he lost an election because city workers were ordered to campaign against him.

"I feel that $75,000 is blood money, I've earned that money and then some," said Jay Stone, former aldermanic candidate.

Frank Coconate is another Daley critic and former city worker who blew the whistle on mismanagement and got fired. He also received $75,000.

"It felt like a weight coming off me because I was just getting beat-up for three years," said Coconate, a former Chicago Water Dept. worker.

Jimmy Bertucci and his lawyer say they figure the passed over promotions cost him at least $140,000.

"All the factors they say rely on should give Jim Bertucci more money and he simply didn't," said Richard Jalovec, Bertucci's attorney.

"They're going to give me a measly $7,000, how is that system fair?" Bertucci said.

Federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan wasn't available for an on-camera interview Friday. By phone she said Bertucci's claim lacked documents, witness statements and other evidence that may have earned him a higher settlement.

Bertucci says he got so frustrated by clout's control over city operations, he recently retired early.

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