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Beleaguered county hospital chief to quit
CAR CONTROVERSY | Simon caught flak for Michigan trips

Thursday, March 06, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Dr. Robert Simon is resigning as Cook County hospital chief after a whirlwind week in which the hospital system changed hands, health care leaders criticized his work, and the Chicago Sun-Times revealed he was using a county car to take trips to his Michigan home.

Simon, who oversaw nearly $100 million in cuts to the struggling health system, delivered a resignation letter this week to County Board President Todd Stroger, who appointed him to the job on an interim basis in December 2006.

Dr. Robert Simon delivered a letter this week to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, announcing his resignation as county hospital chief.

During his tenure, Simon, a respected physician, was outspoken and often clashed with County Board members who delivered his budget.

In a letter delivered to Stroger on Tuesday, Simon called his time as chief "one of the most difficult years in my over 30 years in medicine."

But Simon was set to be ousted, as an independent board is to take control of the health system -- and appoint a new CEO -- in May.

Stroger giving up control of a health system long dominated by political patronage was part of a deal the County Board struck last week in providing a 1 percentage point sales tax increase. That hike gave Chicago the highest sales tax -- 10.25 percent -- of any big city in the nation.

But in his letter, Simon said securing that extra revenue for the health system was one of his goals when taking over and, with it secure, he's prepared to step aside.

Simon, who is also closely tied to the Stroger political machine, did not make himself available for interviews Wednesday afternoon.

After the story broke last week, Simon said he didn't believe he did anything wrong by using the county car, even though Stroger ordered him to pay back money used for gas during the weekend trips.

Those close to Simon say he has been upset by the damage done to his reputation in the last 14 months. He was blamed for the system's downfall.

Yet those who know him never questioned his commitment to the county health system.

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