Stroger: 'I can take this crap'

May 19, 2010 4:36:17 AM PDT
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger had strong words for his critics after commissioners failed to override his veto of hiring and pay-raise freezes Tuesday.

Six county commissioners supported Stroger and voted not to overturn his veto of new hiring, firing and raise rules the board approved earlier.

"I'm not going to let this ship run into a rock while I'm at the helm," said Stroger.

It was a rare victory for Stroger, who is in the final months of his term. He's been pummeled by the press lately and on Tuesday he came within two votes of losing his power over political hiring. The county president's frustration is showing.

"This government runs well and you ought to stand-up for it!" said Stroger.

He won one battle, but Stroger still feels like he's losing the war of public opinion.

"This is just water down my back. I've been fighting four years over B.S. to be honest with you, so I can take this crap," sais Stroger.

Six commissioners sided with Stroger Tuesday, upholding his veto of a measure that would have stripped him of his power to hire, fire and give raises at will.

"You are the executive branch of this government and we should not be taking this power away from you," said Commissioner Deborah Sims, (D) Southwest Side.

"It's not personal, it's not political. I'd vote for this no matter who was sitting in the president's chair," said Commissioner Peter Silvestri, (R) Elmwood Park.

The vote to require county board approval of personnel changes came after President Stroger handed out tens of thousands of dollars in raises to top aides.

He also hired the spokesperson for his failed campaign to be his deputy chief of staff. Carla Oglesby not only got a big raise after only a few weeks on the job, but she also signed-off on a nearly $25,000 county contract to the PR firm she owns.

Stroger suspended Oglesby for 5 days, but she's now back on the payroll.

"You work on my campaign. The campaign had no money. I can't pay you. But as soon as I lose I'll bring you on my staff and you can make $100,000 or more and we'll give a contract for $24,900. If that's not pay to play and that doesn't violate a sense of what's equitable and just, I don't know what does," said Commissioner Tony Peraica, (R) Riverside.

"I gave her time off for signing a contract that affected a company that she was with. That's a no-no," said Stroger. Why only a five day suspension? "I don't know. You gotta time you want to give her?"

Why does Stroger think he's getting a bad wrap?

"I couldn't tell you. I'm the nicest guy I know actually. I couldn't answer it for you. And, I'm very competent," said Stroger.

President Stroger sees the county board's move as political theater. He points out commissioners have been pushing for a hiring freeze for several years now and without one he has submitted three balanced budgets. That's a feat other arms of government's haven't been able to accomplish.


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