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Peraica votes to confirm Zurccarelli to Employee Appeals Board

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mark J. Konkol

Republican Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica cast the unlikely deciding vote to put a South Suburban Democratic powerbroker on an obscure county appeals board Wednesday.

Peraica — arguably county President Todd Stroger’s biggest Republican foe — voted to confirm Stroger’s appointment of Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli to the Employee Appeals Board. Without Peraica’s support, which left several commissioners scratching their heads, Zuccarelli’s appointment to the part-time board that settles disputes for non-union employees would have failed.

Zuccarelli, who also is the Thornton Township Democratic committeeman, said he planned to resign his $88,000-a-year job in the Recorder of Deeds office.

As Thornton Township supervisor, he is paid an additional $56,000-a-year with a $1,100-a-month expense account and $837-a-month car allowance.

He will serve on the appeals board with Rita Rezko, whose husband, Tony Rezko, awaits sentencing on federal corruption charges. Lobbyist William Filan and two others are on the board, which meets once a month. Board members receive a $38,000 salary and benefits.

Peraica defended his vote, saying he checked out Zuccarelli’s qualifications and plans to keep a close eye on the board’s effectiveness. Still, the irony that he sided with Stroger was not lost on him.

“There’s lots of irony in county government, absolutely. If I was the president of the county board would I have appointed Frank Zuccarelli? … No, I wouldn’t have,” Peraica said. “But he was appointed. I checked him out. His willingness to resign the position he holds currently in exchange for a position that pays one-third of what he was making before I think is a wise move for the taxpayers.”

Zuccarelli said he decided to take the board position to spend more time working in Thornton Township and to pursue a master’s degree at Governors State University.

Some commissioners questioned whether Zuccarelli could be objective on a board when people he has recommended for county jobs could appear before him.

Zuccarelli said he has recommended people for county jobs, but none of them have ever been hired. When asked about Peraica being the deciding vote on his appointment, Zuccarelli laughed.

“I think Tony tries to do a good job. There’s some difficulty with the way he approaches things. But I did have the opportunity to speak with him. I tried to reach out to all the commissioners,” Zuccarelli said. “I am concerned with those who didn’t [support me] but I think in time they will recognize they had nothing to worry about. I certainly wouldn’t do anything to make any of them ashamed.”



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