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County bathroom crackdown

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

From the Trib blog:

Another sacrifice of Cook County’s recent budget cuts could be the cleanliness of the private restrooms used by Board President Todd Stroger, commissioners and staff.

Sheriff Tom Dart’s custodial services division on Monday sent a memo to occupants of the County Building informing them that beginning March 19 only public areas of the building would be cleaned. Dart lost 62 janitors and 18 more vacant job slots in the 2007 budget. As a result, he’s pulling all of his custodial staff from the County Building and moving them to the seven courthouses he’s mandated to clean.

Dart lost 62 janitors and 18 more vacant job slots in the 2007 budget. As a result, he’s pulling all of his custodial staff from the County Building and moving them to the seven courthouses he’s mandated to clean.

The County Building contains one marriage courtroom in the basement and for years former Sheriff Michael Sheahan used that as justification for keeping his staff janitors in the building.

Bill Cunningham, Dart’s chief of staff, said they will continue to clean the courtroom until it is moved to the Daley Center later this year.

As for the rest of the building, occupants are being told to place their trash bins in the public hallways at the end of the day for overnight pickup by participants in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program.

SWAP workers, who are convicted criminals in the program as a form of alternative sentencing, will clean the six restrooms in public areas, Cunnigham said.

As for the interior work spaces, the memo says, “additionally, please be advised the private restroom facilities located within offices suites [sic] will no longer be cleaned. Building tenants may obtain restroom paper products from Facilities Management.”

Steve Mayberry, Stroger’s spokesman, said they will monitor the situation but may be “forced” to hire a private cleaning service.

County Treasurer Maria Pappas and County Assessor James Houlihan also have their offices in the County Building.

The scenario is reminiscent of 2003 when Sheahan pulled former Board President John Stroger’s security detail during a budget fight.

Cunningham said removing the custodians, however, was not retaliation for the recently approved budget cuts. He said 34 janitors are assigned to the County Building so the seven courthouses will still be understaffed.

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