Fed. monitor awards ex- city employee $75,000

CHICAGO Frank Coconate is the latest to receive cash from the Shakman Lawsuit, which awarded millions of dollars to people who could prove they were passed over jobs or promotions because they lacked clout.

Coconate claims he was fired by the Daley administration for blowing the whistle on political corruption in the water department and backing anti-Daley candidates. The mayor's office says he was fired for malfeasance on the job

On Friday, Coconate claimed victory and vindication after a federal monitor, Noelle Brennan, awarded him $75,000 because the city's hiring system put politics above performance.

"Mr. Coconate was, according to the monitor, screwed over by the City of Chicago in his firing because of his political activities, which had nothing to do really with his job performance," said J. Terrence Brunner, Coconate's Attorney

"Noelle Brennan had the guts to come out and say a guy like me is telling the truth," said Frank Coconate, former city worker.

Coconate, a Northwest Side resident who was fired by the water department in 2005, is one of 1,400 people awarded $12 million city tax in damages by a federal monitor for being victims of a city personnel system that illegally rewarded and punished employees on the basis of politics.

Daley's former patronage chief Robert Sorich was convicted in federal court of operating the corrupt personnel system, along with Coconate's former boss in the water department, Donald Tomczak.

Coconate railed against the corruption publicly for years and organized political campaigns against Daley, but all he got was a pink slip until this week's award. Federal monitor Noelle Brennan also gave $75,000 to Alderman Bernie Stone's son, Jay, who lost his own race for alderman. His opponent had an army of city workers campaigning for him on city time.

"I think it's silly, just to tell you the truth," said Mayor Daley.

The mayor called the Stone award silly, but Coconate and his attorney say the mayor still doesn't get it.

"This isn't a laughing matter. The mayor and his people are hurting people. When he starts messing with people's lives, with their jobs, it's not a laughing matter," said Coconate.

"These poor city workers, the 1,400 people, worked for a corrupt city of Chicago and it came right out of the hides of their families," said Brunner.

The Daley administration claims that photos, GPS records, and falsified documents prove that Coconate was insubordinate and, as a water department inspector, failed to protect the public.

The mayor's office also claims Brennan gave Coconate $75,000 without talking to his water department supervisor.

Brennan's not commenting on the case, but Coconate dispute's the city's claims. He hopes the monetary award will strengthen lawsuit aimed at overturning his firing.

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