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Cook County needs fresher look at hiring practices

Thursday, October 27, 2005
Daily Southtown
Editorial

THE ISSUE: Cook County awards $100,000 to firm to audit hiring practices to ensure jobs are not awarded for political purposes. The firm found no such practices with county and city of Chicago in the past.
WE SAY: Results of previous audits by the firm are suspect. The county should not rely on the same firm to do audits continually. A new firm could bring a fresher examination of county hiring practices.

When a firm you hire does a good job, chances are you'll give them more business down the road. When the job the firm does is suspect, you may not be so willing to return to them in the future.

Unless you are the Cook County Board.

The board last week voted to give $100,000 in taxpayer money to Hay Management Group for a court-mandated review of the county's hiring practices to ensure they were free from political patronage. This is the same firm that did similar work for the county and city of Chicago in the past and found no political influence in hiring practices.

All together now: What?

That's right. Hay has said that both the city and county comply with the Shakman decree, which says neither government can hire workers based on their political connections.

Funny, but federal prosecutors and a federal monitor brought in to review city hiring found that Chicago for years has been "substantially" ignoring the Shakman rules.

As for the county, one county board member noted that Hay previously found politics played no role in hiring practices within such institutions as Provident Hospital and the county juvenile jail, which, according to the board member, "are well-documented patronage dumping grounds."

Hay did find fault with the county's record-keeping on hiring and pointed to the absence of required documents in some cases, but another board member noted the company "never followed up; they never asked any questions."

In its audit process, Hay has examined about 10 percent of the hires the county made. Maybe it's possible those 10 percent were patronage-free. But Hay's clean bill of health for the city is mind-boggling.

With increased scrutiny being placed on hiring practices at all government levels in recent years, the county would have been better off seeking a new firm to do its audit. In fact, it wouldn't be bad policy to find a different firm each year. A fresh set of eyes might uncover improper practices that might escape someone too familiar with what passes for government in Cook County.



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