“I expected to find a lot of inefficiency and a lot of inappropriate behavior, and we’ve found it,” said new Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle with a laugh, speaking of her first 100 days in office. “I don’t know what to say. Am I surprised? No. I haven’t been surprised. But it is a little discouraging.”
Preckwinkle spoke with Eight Forty–Eight’s Alison Cuddy on Monday about the recent investigations into the forest preserve facilities in Lyons, IL, as well as the future of Oak Forest Hospital that has been scheduled to close.
Preckwinkle took over for former Board President Todd Stroger in December 2010. A recent Cook County Inspector General’s report alleges that during Stroger’s administration, employees of the Lyons facility stole money, had sex at work and provided alcohol to minors.
To combat these issues, Preckwinkle cited new leadership that her administration has brought in, specifically new General Superintendent Arnold Randall, to fight concerns with how it was being managed. She pointed to specifics such as the termination of several summer employees, as well as changes in the cash management system.
Responding to questions over whether or not governmental bodies like the Forest Preserve should even be under her jurisdiction, Preckwinkle said, “Give us a chance to try responsible government before you decide we should be independents.” She also pointed out that Illinois already has the most elected officials and separate governments of any state in the nation.
On the issue of the future of the Oak Forest Hospital, Preckwinkle said that she hopes that when the Illinois Health Facilities and Service Review Board meets in May, it will agree to support the county’s recommendation to close the facility.
Last week, the Board rejected the County’s plans to close the south suburban hospital. Board members pressed county health officials about where nearby residents would go to seek medical attention if the hospital were closed.