Cook County to overhaul troubled jobs training program

April 26, 2011

Cook County officials are announcing an overhaul of a scandal-ridden job training department.

The President's Office of Employment Training, or POET, is cutting its staff by more than forty percent. It will no longer directly oversee individual trainees and will now be called Cook County Works.

The county jobs training department has been dogged by scandals and mismanagement in recent years.
A summer youth jobs program run by POET is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation. Last year a former POET financial manager pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 in public funds. Between 2003 and 2008, POET was forced to return $8.4 million in funding to the state due to accounting irregularities.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says the program's new director, Karin Norington-Reaves, will have to re-organize one of the most mismanaged departments in the county.

"You know, I think POET was one of the places where people who had political connections were placed without regard to their competence," Preckwinkle said at a Wednesday press conference. "So she had a lot of difficulty when she came in."

The department overhaul should be done by August, Preckwinkle said.