Federal report out on city's hiring decisions

March 6, 2009 5:28:08 PM PST
Nearly four years after the mayor's patronage, Chief Robert Sorich was convicted of corruption for his role in a jobs-for-political work scheme. The federal monitor says the city is putting up obstacles to compliance and taking on a far more litigious approach to its obligations to tell the monitor what it is doing about cleaning up city hiring. It's a strongly-worded report - the quarterly summary of how the city is complying with a 2005 federal order, known as the Shakman decree - to eliminate politics from city hiring decisions. Read the report.

Court appointed monitor Noelle Brennan says the city's willingness to work collaboratively with the monitor's office has notably decreased; that too many times, possible political hirings are being dismissed as "technical" or can be explained away as innocuous; that the amount of information available to the monitor appears to go through "several levels of review in order to downplay an implication of possible wrongdoing;" and the city is engaged in "ongoing resistance to the office of compliance's independence."

The man who took the city to court to remove patronage from city hiring is outraged.

"It is real disturbing, it generates real worry that the city is seriously considering straightening out its political hiring or it is only going through the motions and trying to appear to be cooperating when it really isn't," said Michael Shakman.

Brennan's report tells how the department of environment, for example, got two preferred job applicants onto the city payroll by getting an outside contractor to hire them, after the department of human resources couldn't hire them due to patronage concerns.

Streets and sanitation was also called on the carpet for manipulating layoffs by ignoring union rules that required eleven sanitation employees to be "bumped" to lower paying jobs after dozens of their co-workers were fired December 31.

As well, the city isn't properly monitoring attempts by elected officials to influence the personnel process. Ald. Michael Zalewski of the 23rd Ward wanted to get a more favorable job assignment or location for one of his constituents that was subsequently granted.

"She's not a million dollar employee and I know we pay the monitor a million dollars but this lady makes $35,000 a year. In today's economy I was just trying to help her save her job," said Zalewski.

Nothing will change at city hall, according to Shakman, unless the mayor puts his prestige on the line.

"If Mayor Daley gets solidly behind reform and passes the word that he means it and wants to get it done, it is going to get done," said Zalewski.

The city of Chicago issused this statement: "We regret how the monitor feels about the city's cooperation but the city has pledged our full cooperation with the monitor and will continue to cooperate with her until this process is completed."