The Watchdogs: Fired as city water boss, now fired from Cook County
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
by Lisa Donovan
Life in Chicago politics can be a roller coaster, something Tommie Talley has seen firsthand.
In 2010, the Daley
administration fired him from his job as a top official in the Water
Department. His bosses said that he dispatched city water crews on three
occasions to do repair work on private property, records show.
that, then-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger hired Talley last
October as a $90,000-a-year administrative analyst in the county Highway
Department — a position exempt from the court-ordered Shakman decree
that bans most political hiring and firing in government.
Now, newly obtained records show that Toni Preckwinkle, Stroger’s successor as Cook County Board president, fired him in March.
Preckwinkle spokeswoman Jessey Neves declined to give a reason for Talley’s firing.
“He was in a Shakman-exempt position and thus working at the discretion of the president,” Neves said.
Talley said Tuesday he was terminated March 17. And he said his
supervisor, Highway Supt. Rupert F. Graham, told him it wasn’t because
of his work.
“He said, ‘It’s politics, Tommie,’ ” Talley said. “He said they didn’t want my name to taint the reputation of the president.”
Graham denies that.
“No, I told him I was not told by the administration . . . why they made that decision,” Graham said.
Talley was a
$127,824-a-year deputy commissioner in the city’s Water Management
Department until early 2010. That’s when he was fired over the
allegations regarding city crews doing work on private property.
“Those accusations are totally false,” Talley said.
“After 29 years of service, I had 11 months to retire. Why would I
In the high-profile
2006 federal corruption trial that culminated with the conviction of
Robert Sorich, Mayor Daley’s former patronage chief, Talley was named in
testimony as having helped rig city hiring, but he was never charged
with any crime.
Asked about that, Talley said, “I don’t know. I didn’t follow that trial.”
In 2005, he was suspended from his city job for 15
days, accused of failing to exercise proper supervision over employees
accused of taking part in a payroll scam.
“I knew nothing about that at all,” he said, adding that he was suspended because he supervised those involved.
Talley, 51, has
longstanding ties to mayoral brother and Cook County Commissioner John
Daley’s 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.
When Stroger hired Talley last fall, Cook County
Commissioner Larry Suffredin criticized his hiring, saying, “We are not
here to collect bad apples.”
Suffredin applauded Preckwinkle for firing Talley,
saying, “We’re not the dumping ground for employees fired by other
Talley said he is now unemployed and having a tough time finding a job.
“Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people,” he said. “It’s happened to me twice now.”