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Hiring freeze veto holds

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
by Alex Parker

County Board President Todd Stroger won a rare political victory today, as county commissioners failed to override his veto on legislation that called for a county-wide hiring freeze.

Commissioners voted nine to six, with one present and one absent, falling two short of the votes necessary to override the veto.

Stroger said the measure was aimed squarely at him, and chastised board members for overstepping their bounds. He argued the measure would violate the county’s law, which gives certain hiring powers to the president’s office.

“This only affects me. This is about me,” he said, before unleashing an impassioned rant in which he raised his voice multiple times.

“We always hit our mark and we never let departments spend more than they have. If we did that, we’d all be in trouble, so this has no validity to the past,” he said. “The legislature will not run the administration.”

The hiring freeze did not include the health system, hiring practices under court mandate or emergency hires. It would have expired Nov. 30, aligning with the end of Stroger’s term. It would not have affected the incoming president.

Some commissioners expressed concerns that the freeze would be illegal, after assistant state’s attorney Patrick Driscoll told the board he thought it was unlawful.

Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, who voted against the veto override, called the measure a “power play” and a “sad commentary” on the politics of the board.

“This is not sound thinking, this is not good thinking. This is divisiveness,” said Murphy, who voted in favor of the hiring freeze at the board’s last meting.

Commissioner William Beavers, who voted against the hiring freeze today and who was the lone holdout two weeks ago, said a few board members were trying to spoil the bunch.

“It’s amazing to me how one person can lead 15 commissioners down the road to take this Kool-Aid,” he said.

He said voters would express their displeasure at board members trying to usurp Stroger’s power.

“Come November, they’re going to show you just how they feel about taking power away from the President,” he said. “Mr. President, I’m with you and I’m going to stand with you.”

But commissioners who voted against the veto said putting a hold on most hires was a smart way to rein in spending. Some cited recent examples of hires that escaped board scrutiny.

“This is an attempt to really get a handle on the cost of the county. Everyone out there is trying to cut costs. I find it very strange we are trying to cut costs,” said Commissioner John Daley, chairman of the finance committee.”

Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin argued the legislation was written to protect the powers of the president, and Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri said it was a way to ensure a transparent process.

Commissioner Liz Gorman likened the hiring freeze to current efforts to stop the oil leak in the Gulf Coast.

“This is just trying to stop our oil rig form leaking here in Cook County, and we have a solution to stop the leaking, the spewing of the oil and that is to vote for this override and stop the spewing,” she said.

Anticipating that the veto might be sustained, Commissioners Daley, Suffredin, Bridget Gainer and Timothy Schneider passed a resolution urging Stroger to implement a hiring freeze. Stroger said he would consult with Chief Financial Officer Jaye Williams before agreeing to a hiring freeze.

Here's how the voting went down:

Voting in favor of veto override










Voting against veto override







Voting present or absent

Moreno (absent)

Reyes (present)

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