'Put Up or Shut Up' About Patronage

April 24, 2008

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Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno pushed for the requirement. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Cook County government's had a reputation for patronage. Some commissioners say crooked hiring is rampant—others say it barely exists, if at all. Either way, the county ethics policy says employees must report illegal patronage hiring. Yesterday, the Cook County Board formally declared it will operate by the same rule.

The debate on ethics opened with this tit-for-tat between commissioners Tony Peraica and Joseph Moreno.

PERAICA: I have a question. Isn't this already a requirement under the Cook County ethics ordinance? 
MORENO: I would hope so, let me give you a little enlightenment.
PERAICA: So why are we doing it?
MORENO: This resolution is to memorialize our duty to report any patronage hiring and or firing. Now, oftentimes we here people on this body telling us about, they heard this and they heard that; well, we want them to report what they heard and who they heard it from.

Right here, commissioner Joseph Moreno addressed Peraica. Peraica routinely says patronage costs Cook County money. His critics say many claims of patronage are just posturing.

As commissioner Bill Beavers put it:

BEAVERS: They keep talking about I heard this, I heard that. Put up or shut up: that's what you need to do.

Cook County's current inspector general might be replaced soon, but he says, during his four years in office, no commissioner filed an official claim of patronage hiring. Peraica, says there's a reason for that - some commissioners feel it wouldn't do any good.

PERAICA: It's unfortunate that we don't have as much activity in the inspector-general's office. I look forward to the new inspector-general being selected.

Cook County Commissioners passed the illegal patronage reporting requirement. A court-appointed hiring monitor says, "It will be interesting to see if the Office of the Inspector General now gets more reports of patronage hiring in Cook County."