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Board chief fills slot on press staff

Friday, September 17, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Though faced with a growing budget deficit, lame-duck Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has just filled an open position on his communications staff.

Marcel Bright, 54, a retired Chicago cop, started Monday as an $89,000-a-year deputy director of communications for Stroger. He replaces Sean Howard, now working for a county-run youth job-training program.

Until August, Bright had been spokesman for Stroger Hospital -- the largest of the three hospitals in the county health system. The job was eliminated because of budget cuts, according to Lucio Guerrero, spokesman for the county health and hospital system.

Bright previously worked as a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, like his new boss, Eugene Mullins, Stroger's chief spokesman.

Stroger's communications staff also includes Chris Geovanis and James Ramos. Most political appointees -- including those on the communications staff -- are expected to be out of a job after the November election.

Given that and a projected county budget deficit of $300 million to $400 million in 2011, Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, questioned the new hire.

"0n balance, are communications the biggest need our county has? I don't think so," she said.

Ramos said there hasn't been a slowdown in the number of media inquiries to Stroger, so replacing Howard was essential.

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