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Federal monitor: Kaegi not on ‘effective path’ to end oversight of assessor’s office hiring
Monitor Susan G. Feibus said in her report that Kaegi’s office has “not grasped the level of scrutiny” that comes with being under federal oversight.

Monday, October 07, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times
by Rachel Hinton

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi is under fire from a court-appointed monitor for delays in implementing new hiring policies meant to keep politics out of his office and failing to understand what needs to be done to escape the federal microscope.

Susan G. Feibus, the Shakman monitor for the office, said in her report, which was filed in federal court last week, that Kaegi’s office has “not grasped the level of scrutiny” that comes with being under federal oversight.

That “lack of understanding” was demonstrated through employee actions that resist “Shakman-related concerns voiced by” Feibus, she said.

“This is not an effective path to substantial compliance,” Feibus writes.

Michael Shakman is the lawyer who filed the landmark anti-patronage lawsuit that culminated in the 1972 federal consent decree that bears his name. It resulted in federal oversight of a number of city and county offices, including the assesssor’s office. 

The assessor’s progress toward meeting the goals that would help shake it free from federal oversight has been fraught with delays, from the stalled implementation of “long-overdue” revisions to the employment plan to the delayed rollout of position descriptions for union and non-union positions and the subsequent holdup of the start of a performance evaluation process among other things, the monitor found.

In the 19-page report, Feibus notes the office has done some things well, such as updating its employee handbook, offering extensive training on the changes and largely hiring people in compliance with its current employment plan.

But there’s been a lot of turnover — seven of the 25 positions that do not fall under Shakman oversight, or 28%, have been vacated in the 10 months since Kaegi’s been in office, according to the report.

In a statement, Chief Deputy Assessor Sarah Garza Resnick said the office is proud of the work it’s done so far to bring the office into compliance with Shakman policies and that the report stated there haven’t been any violations in the hiring process since the last report in December.

“Assessor Kaegi places the utmost importance on reaching substantial compliance with the Shakman Decree,” the statement reads in part. “The Inspector General Patrick Blanchard stated in court this morning that there have been no allegations or complaints of unlawful political discrimination. Going forward we will be meeting regularly with the ACA and plaintiff’s counsel to address communication and compliance paperwork issues as we continue to work towards substantial compliance.”



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