Co. board restricts Stroger's spending

May 4, 2010 4:19:38 PM PDT
By a near-unanimous vote, the Cook County Board slaps new limits on the power of President Todd Stroger.

Stroger, who has faced scrutiny recently in the awarding of contracts and the use of a county credit card, is now restricted on county purchases, contracts and hiring. The board president denies any wrong doing and he is considering using his veto power to block the board's action.

Stroger, who has only seven months left in office, responded to recent media reports that his administration is on a spending spree Tuesday.

"If you want to run the county through the newspapers, this is the kind of stuff that pops up every once in a while," said Stroger.

Lame duck President Stroger-- who must leave his post in December-- invited reporters to his office. Last month, a newspaper reported that recently-ordered furniture had been delivered. There was no new furniture in his office-- just the old stuff ordered at least 18 years ago by then County Board President Richard Phelan.

But Stroger did confirm new furniture has been ordered as part of the county board-approved, ongoing capital program.

"There is new furniture coming. I'm not taking it home with me when I leave. But there will be new furniture for the office," said Stroger.

County board members are also concerned about the president's post-election hiring of Carla Oglesby, a former campaign official, to be his deputy chief of staff and the award of a no-bid contract to Oglesby's PR firm. She is on unpaid leave while the county's inspector general investigates.

"Having campaign staffers put on the payroll, driving up employee costs, seem to have people circling around here like a bunch of vultures and it's turning this actions, this government into a sequel of 'Dumb and Dumber,'" said Comm. Elizabeth Doody-Gorman, (R) Orland Park.

"We have to tighten our budget county wide, every elected official. Not just you Mr. President, which you've said you have, but every elected official," said Comm. John Daley, (D) finance committee chairman.

The board voted overwhelmingly to require the president and department heads to report all no-bid contracts and purchases above $750 within three days. There is a similar reporting requirement on new hires, firings, promotions and raises. Also, the board passed a hiring freeze that Stroger has already vowed to veto.

"Once they decide who gets hired and fired, that's when the trouble really starts," said Stroger.

Even commissioners who voted for the new rules and restrictions are worried about the long-term affects on Stroger's successor.

"I see here a diminution of power of the presidency of the Cook County Board and I feel sorry for the new president coming in, whoever he or she is," said Comm. Jerry Butler, (D) Chicago.

The county board passed the hiring freeze by a 16-1 vote with Commissioner William Beavers the only no vote. If there is a veto, there appear to be enough votes on the board to override it.


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