The court-appointed watchdog
in charge of rooting out patronage hiring at Cook County quit abruptly
Tuesday, issuing a statement that chided the county board for not doing
its part in the process.
The compliance administrator, Julia Nowicki, would not
immediately comment on her decision, saying she was trying to contact
board members before speaking with the press. Monday was a county
holiday, Casimir Pulaski day, and so most, if not all commissioners,
were not in their offices to receive a letter she had sent them Monday.
"In the letter, Nowicki made it clear that she was not
charged with the responsibility of eradicating illegal patronage
practices. She reminded the board that that responsibility was theirs,"
a statement from Nowicki's office said.
The release also noted that there were further
recommendations Nowicki had made that had not been enacted by the board
and could be done without any additional cost to the county.
The letter recounted patronage horror stories,
including the comments of an unnamed county doctor who told Nowicki he
feared that retribution for reporting patronage hiring could include
discontinuation of needed medical supplies. Nowicki told the board,
"you should be outraged," the statement said.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat who
helped draft the county's agreed court order, known as the Shakman
decree, was surprised by the news and had not yet seen the letter when
"I'm surprised," said Suffredin. "I think she's done a good job, and I felt better that she was there."
Although Nowicki hadn't told commissioners about her
plans, she apparently had informed U.S. District Court Judge Wayne
Andersen, who appointed a successor Monday. The new compliance
administrator will be Mary Robinson, former administrator for the
Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which
investigates complaints against attorneys and recommends discipline to
the Illinois Supreme Court.