A Cook County commissioner, one Tony Peraica (a Republican candidate), held a news conference outside the county’s human resources office to clarify the reasons for the FBI’s presence in the building. Although the FBI’s investigation began late last year, it first reached the public’s view just yesterday when agents stormed the human resource’s building (where hiring and personnel records are kept) wielding court ordered search warrants and subpoenas. Tony Peraica stated, “There’s a criminal conspiracy here that has been going on for quite some time to falsify job applications, to alter test scores, to hire unqualified individuals, principally from the 8th Ward.”

Other persons within the county, such as County Commissioner Forest Claypool, coupled his remarks with both remorse and little surprise. He stated, “County government has been a patronage dumping ground for years, a place where unqualified politically connected people have been dumped by the thousands…and very little has been done about it. It’s sad that reform at the county government is likely to come through law enforcement rather than through political process.”

Cook County has been in non-compliance with the court order known as the Shakman decree for three decades. The decree was born due to a federal lawsuit filed by lawyer Michael Shakman back in 1969. He contested that patronage hirings skewed the probability of the occurrence of fair elections. In the 1970’s both the city and the county agreed to prohibit firings and promotions for political reasons. Hiring was to occur on the basis of an applicant’s qualifications, rather than clout and/or political influence. This order became known as the Shakman decree.

Federal authorities believe Mayor Richard Daley’s administration found new ways to circumvent the decree. Daley’s patronage chief, Robert Sorich, and three other former city officials have already been convicted of fraud and other crimes in their efforts to circumvent the Shakman decree. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his administration’s hiring practices are also under investigation.

Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele offered the comment, “I am committed to doing what is necessary to root out any problems,” which comes as a relief to investigators; however, this “commitment” comes into question when one acknowledges why such a commitment wasn’t demonstrated prior to now. In any event the County’s full cooperation is expected.

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