Monday, January 31, 2005

Dated January 31, 2005 at 12:30 am, revised at 12:00 pm
Jeff Berkowitz: But, if somebody asked for it, you could give them the written back-up to show that you did a national search?

County Board President John Stroger: No, I wouldn’t give them that. No.
The Fire Next Time: A Godsend or God-Son Contracts, Global Searches and the ubiquitous Robert Wislow and U. S. Equities
The Chicago Tribune, in its editorial of January 27, 2005 stated that County Board President Stroger promised nine months ago to conduct a global search for a consultant who would advise what to do with the old County Hospital. However, based on what President Stroger said to me in the course of an interview on the afternoon of January 27, transcribed below, it doesn’t sound like a true national search, let alone a global search, was conducted.
Indeed, I do true national legal searches for clients. I know the techniques of national searches; I know the characteristics of national searches; I know the feel of national searches; and trust me, this was no national search, let alone a global search.
And then there is the sub-contract of the contract referenced above, in which the sub-contract is to go to a God-son of President Stroger, as reported in the Chicago Tribune’s Jan. 28, 2005 Metro Section.
And Robert Wislow is the head of U. S. Equities, which got the contract, referenced above. Wislow, as reported in the Janauary 28 Chicago Tribune, was co-owner of 69 West Washington Management, a firm that the Tribune indicates was sharply criticized for failing to have proper evacuation and other emergency procedures in place when the October, 2003 fire killed six.
Jeff Berkowitz: Is it okay to deal with friends when you are in county government--or city government?

Cook County Board President John Stroger: No, there is nothing wrong

Berkowitz: That’s okay?
Stroger: If they are doing their work. But, in this case he [Commissioner Claypool] is saying we are bringing people in just for patronage sake and that is not true.

Berkowitz: Well, what about U. S. Equities? That is in the news today.

Stroger: U. S. Equities, one of the largest companies of its kind and what we are asking them to do is to analyze the needs of the health care delivery system of Cook County and [in] particular, look into wards and new buildings we need to erect to take care of the thousands and thousands of the people that we need to treat…

Berkowitz: But, you are thinking of retaining U. S. Equities as a consultant to advise you on what to do with the old [Cook] County Hospital building, right?

Stroger: That’s not primary, but the general purpose is to let him develop a program around the needs that’s been outlined by the people from the [new Cook County, aka John Stroger] Hospital.

Berkowitz: Who do you—

Stroger: Dr. Winship and other people who are on the staff [of the new Cook County Hospital], the planning program and so forth.

Berkowitz: But one of the owners of U. S. Equities is Bob Wislow, right? [A Chicago Tribune editorial of January 27 identifies Wislow as the head of U. S. Equities and also having a record of political contributions to local Democrats, including Cook County Board President Stroger and Mayor Daley.]

Stroger: Yeah, but Bob Wislow does this all over the world. So, what is wrong with Bob Wislow working with us?

Berkowitz: Well, I am just pointing out that you talked about Forrest [Commissioner Claypool], you said that he had some friends who he hired [when he was head of Chicago’s Park District].

Stroger: It’s not only that. He went to work with some of those same people he hired.

Berkowitz: The Tribune is writing about this [the use of the Old County Hospital] today and they said you folks [i.e., President Stroger] were to do a national search, and you came up with somebody who is right in your backyard [Chicago Tribune editorial, January 27, 2005; more precisely, the Tribune reported that Cook County Board President Stroger said previously that he would conduct a global search for someone to advise what to do with the old hospital].

Stroger: Yeah, but a national search could lead to your backyard, if that’s the way you want to put it.

Berkowitz: So, you don’t think there is anything suspicious about that?

Stroger: I don’t think I should go to New York to get somebody who has the expertise to do a job in Chicago and who would know not only his profession, which nobody can doubt that about U. S. Equities, but also a person who is one of the people who live within the County.

Berkowitz: Did you do a national search? Did the Cook County government do a national search for this consultant?

Stroger: I am the person who, I told them right off that I would talk with a lot of people and see—and I have had people coming in, writing—but, when I finally made the conclusion, I concluded that a company, whether it was Bob, or some other company—that was located in Cook County would be best to help us develop this program. And, I don’t regret it at all.

Berkowitz: How many other vendors did you consider when you did the search?

Stroger: I don’t know the numbers but I wasn’t going all over the world looking for-

Berkowitz: Do you have documentation of the other vendors?

Stroger: No. Written? To give you right now? No, but I have talked with other people.

Berkowitz: But, if somebody asked for it, you could give them the written back-up to show that you did a national search?

Stroger: No, I wouldn’t give them that—no.

Berkowitz: You don’t think the government—citizens should see that?

Stroger: No, I think that I have done the very best possible thing. These individuals who are talking and you called [them] the gang of 4 [Cook County Commissioners Quigley, Claypool, Suffredin and Peraica] or 8 [In addition to the gang of 4, Commissioners Gorman, Goslin, Hansen and Silvestri]—have already cost us eight million dollars because they refused to allow the Old Building to be demolished when every engineering firm that’s been out there, with the exception of a few who want a landmark status situation is saying that it would cost us more money to rehabilitate than building any of this—

Berkowitz: Isn’t that one of the things that U. S. Equities is supposed to advise on—they are supposed to consider whether—so they may, would you say it is a foregone conclusion that they”ll tell you to demolish it?

Stroger: But, these other groups never had any data to support their positions.

Berkowitz: Do you think possibly it is the case that that building [the old County Hospital] should not be demolished and should be used?

Stroger: Well, I know, based on, and I have been on this Board for 34 years that that building, nearly 50 years ago had out, uh, was no longer useful in modern day delivery of healthcare.

Berkowitz: So, you think it should be demolished?

Stroger: Yes, I do. I do.
County Board President John Stroger, in a "Public Affairs," show to air in the suburbs during the Week of February 7 and as will be cablecast on "Public Affairs," on Monday, February 14, 2005 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 throughout the City of Chicago. The show was recorded on Janaury 27, 2005. See the January 25, 2005, 2:30 pm blog entry, below, for a detailed suburban airing schedule (Days, locations and times on Comcast Cable) of "Public Affairs."
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at