Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Peraica calls Stroger corrupt

Jeff Berkowitz: So, you are saying he is corrupt, right? You are saying he [Cook County Board President Stroger] is corrupt?

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica: Yeah, I do. I do.
Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica announced earlier this month that he is running in the Republican Primary for Cook County Board President. Peraica held a press conference this morning at the Cook County GOP headquarters, and with cameras from the Chicago local CBS and ABC stations, and “Public Affairs,” all running, took aim at Democrat Cook County Party patronage and “clout.” After taking aim, Peraica pulled the trigger, arguing that County Government under President Stroger makes the old Soviet [Union] Politburo look like a “model in customer service and openness,” and called President Stroger corrupt [See partial transcript, below] .

John Stroger has been Cook County Board President for more than ten years, but he has not announced whether he will run in the March, 2006 primary for the right to run for re-election. For the last two years, his attempts to raise county taxes have been beat back by a group labeled by this reporter as the Four Horsemen [Republican Commissioner Peraica and Democrat Commissioners Claypool, Quigley and Suffredin] who led the initial charge and ultimately were joined by four Republican Commissioners [Hansen, Goslin, Silvestri and Gorman] and Democrat Commissioner Earlean Collins, forming a working majority for fighting higher taxes—aka the gang of nine-who perhaps are working on bringing the Apocalypse Now to President Stroger.

Although Peraica’s focus obviously was on Democratic Cook County Board President John Stroger, he brought Democratic Cook County Finance Committee Chairman John Daley [brother of Mayor Richard Daley] into his sights as well. Peraica pointed out that 25% of all 25,000 Cook County employees live in the Stroger and Daley county board districts, which he argued is reflective of the patronage and clout wielded by those two, as they, in their roles as County Commissioners, represent only two of the seventeen Cook County Board districts, or about 12% of the Cook County population.

Peraica unveiled a web-based database of the 24, 500 Cook County employees [accessible from Peraica’s campaign web site], which when Cook County Forest Preserve employees are added, will contain data on over 25,000 Cook County employees, including name, title, hire date, town/zipcode of residence and salary. The database will be updated and ultimately will include such additional data as overtime compensation for Cook County employees, which spectacular excesses [one nurse's overtime tab:$187,500] were written about in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune “Top of the Fold,” p. 1 article by Mickey Ciokajlo and Todd Lighty, "[Cook] County Workers hit OT jackpot."

Peraica gave as an example of patronage and clout one Sam Simone, who he characterized as the Palos Township Democratic Committeeman and who he said was being paid $70,000 plus benefits, per year, as a “picnic table refurbisher.” Peraica indicated that this is a completely unnecessary, clouted, patronage job. He argued that ordinary maintenance forest preserve employees should be able to handle such jobs [Peraica said Simone is not yet on the web-based database because he is a Forest Preserve employee, and the data for those employees have not yet been computerized by Cook County].

We join the press conference, which lasted about twenty five minutes, in progress:

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica: Mr. Simone, who is the Democratic Committeeman in Palos Township, was hired at $80,000 per year plus benefits to oversee the refurbishing of picnic tables in the Forest Preserve District. First of all, that is unnecessary. Second, it should be outsourced. Third, you don’t need someone making one hundred thousand dollars to do that. It is an unnecessary position that is given to someone just because they are a committeeman in a particular area that he [President Stroger] is trying to build political support from.

Second example-if you look at the position that was given to Thornton Township committeeman, Mr. Zuccarelli [Of whom it is said "Never bet against Frank Zuccarelli's Thornton Township machine"], who is now the director of satellite offices for the [Cook County] Recorder of Deeds office. You know, another $80,000 job plus benefits to go out and supervise satellite offices that we don’t even need. We don’t need satellite offices for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. It could be done in many different ways at many different levels by other departments who are already there, such as the Clerk’s office, because for the small amount of documents that are recorded at these satellite suburban offices-- to spend $800,000 per year, plus add an overseer-- a supervisor for these offices-- is almost another $100,000 a year, with benefits and insurance-- doesn’t make sense.

Jeff Berkowitz: Who made those decisions?

Peraica: President Stroger made those decisions.

Berkowitz: So, would you say that Cook County Board President John Stroger is corrupt?

Peraica: I would say that the manner in which he does business, you can describe it as corrupt. That’s correct.

Berkowitz: No, would you say that Cook County Board President John Stroger is corrupt.

Peraica: I would say if you define giving jobs, contracts and positions to your political cronies who do little or nothing—that is corrupt, then he is corrupt.

Berkowitz: Do you define it that way?

Peraica: Yeah, I define it that way.

Berkowitz: So, you are saying he is corrupt, right? You are saying he [County Board President Stroger] is corrupt?

Peraica: Yeah, I do. I do.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at JBCG@aol.com