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Way cleared for jail panel replacement

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

A committee of the Cook County Board Monday approved a replacement for Rev. Harold Bailey on an advisory panel to Sheriff Michael Sheahan.

Bailey, chairman of the Cook County Board of Corrections, contends that Sheahan wants him out because he sued the sheriff over his selection of Callie Baird to run the County Jail.

Sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said that Sheahan and Bailey have philosophical differences and that Bailey's term on the advisory panel had expired.

Sheahan's recommendation of community activist Munir Muhammad to replace Bailey goes to the full County Board Tuesday for approval.

Bailey's supporters urged the committee Monday not to approve Muhammad, saying the sheriff was attempting to use Muhammad to make an end run around a judge's ruling to remove Baird.

Cunningham pointed out that Sheahan forwarded Muhammad's name as a replacement for Bailey prior to the judge's order.

After Monday's meeting, Muhammad said he would be an independent voice on the board.

Of the Baird matter, he said, "They already voted on that, they've done litigation. That previous board prevailed."

Sheahan is appealing Judge Martin Agran's order to remove Baird on the grounds that the sheriff's appointment was illegal.

Under state law, the sheriff picks a jail director from a list of three finalists forwarded by the Corrections Board. Baird was not among the board's final three.

The County Board's Legislation & Intergovernmental Relations Committee Monday voted 6-1 in favor of Muhammad with one commissioner voting present.

"The sheriff has the right to make the appointment and that's the one thing we have to keep in mind," said Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago).

In casting her dissenting vote, Commissioner Earlean Collins (D-Chicago) didn't question the qualifications of Muhammad. Rather, she said the county was inviting litigation by replacing Bailey at this time.

"This whole thing has just been blown so far out of proportion until it is totally ridiculous," Collins said. "It is pathetic what we're doing here."

Bailey's term on the five-member Corrections Board expired in 1997 but he remained on the panel as the sheriff brought no names forward to replace him.

The board maintained a low profile until last year when the lawsuit was filed over Sheahan's selection of Baird to run the jail.

William Hooks, a lawyer appointed to represent the Corrections Board members who sued, said the attempt to remove Bailey was a violation of the county's ethics ordinance.

R. Eugene Pincham, a retired Illinois Appellate Court judge who is supporting Bailey, said legal action will be pursued if the County Board approves Muhammad.



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