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Cook County to pay $2.6 million to 3 fired doctors

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by John Byrne

Cook County commissioners agreed Wednesday to pay a $2.6 million settlement to three doctors who in two federal lawsuits claimed they were illegally fired from jobs at a South Side hospital.

Dr. Vietta Johnson and Dr. Daniel Ivankovich said in their lawsuit that they were laid off from their positions at Provident Hospital because they supported organizing activities by a physicians' union, and criticized the county for spending too little on patient care and too much on administrative salaries and other nonpatient costs.

Johnson and Dr. Karen Nash, African-American women, said they faced discrimination from the county and supervisors in how much they were paid and how they were treated at the Bronzeville neighborhood hospital. Nash was the lone plaintiff in a second lawsuit.

The doctors said in their lawsuits that they were laid off in 2007 on the pretext of budget cuts to the county hospital system under Todd Stroger, who was president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners at the time.

Stroger and his hand-picked health chief, Dr. Robert Simon, pushed through controversial cuts in services at the county's hospitals and health care clinics, a medical safety net for hundreds of thousands of people. The County Board created an independent panel in 2008 to oversee hospital operations.

Also Wednesday, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and several commissioners introduced a plan to cut the county's year-old vehicle transfer tax for person-to-person sales.

Under the Preckwinkle-backed measure that took effect last year, anyone selling a car or transferring the title to a family member has to pay the tax. The rates are $225 for vehicles 5 years old or newer, $200 for those between 6 and 10 years, and $175 for autos 11 years old or older.

In place of that, Preckwinkle is proposing a $225 fee to transfer cars or trucks 3 years old or newer. Those 4 to 8 years old would cost $175 to transfer, and any vehicle 9 years or older would cost $90. All motorcycles would cost $90 to transfer. And any transfers between immediate family members or estate beneficiaries would cost $25, as would some business transfers, Preckwinkle said.

The change would not affect dealership sales.

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