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Preckwinkle seeks to end Shakman oversight for political patronage

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today that the County and Shakman Plaintiffs have filed in U.S. District Court a joint motion to set a hearing for finding substantial compliance and dismissal of Shakman v. The County of Cook, et al.

A hearing has been set for October 31 to end oversight stemming from the nearly 50-year-old lawsuit originally filed to prevent political patronage hiring in Cook County.

“When I took office, I made it clear that we needed to reform and reshape Cook County government and that included professionalizing the County’s employment practices in an accountable and transparent way,” Preckwinkle said. “We have worked hard to ensure that Cook County is hiring qualified candidates to provide the crucial services expected by those who live and work in Cook County.”

“This is a significant moment for Cook County and I’m grateful to those who have made this momentous accomplishment possible.”

In 1972, Cook County entered into a Consent Decree that prohibited the County from politically discriminating against County employees. In 1994, the County entered into a second Consent Decree that incorporated the 1972 Consent Decree’s prohibitions and extended those prohibitions to include the County’s hiring practices of new employees.

In 2006, the Plaintiffs alleged past violations of the Consent Decrees and the County and Plaintiffs entered into a Supplemental Relief Order (SRO). The SRO was ultimately approved by the Court on February 2, 2007 and resulted in the appointment of a Federal Compliance Administrator (the “CA”) to oversee the County’s compliance.

At the October 31 hearing, the County expects to be released from federal oversight and the Shakman lawsuit to be dismissed against Cook County.

“We have worked diligently to foster a culture of professionalism and accountability and have left behind bad practices of the past,” Preckwinkle said. “We are pleased to have arrived at this moment.”

Since taking office in 2010, Preckwinkle has implemented major reforms and reshaped County government under the guiding principles of fiscal responsibility, innovative leadership, transparency and accountability, and improved services.

Preckwinkle has been at the forefront of numerous initiatives that promote fair and equitable employment practices; has mandated annual Employment Plan training; has implemented various reporting requirements and contact logs; encouraged reform and cooperation with the Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG)  and has supported policies and procedures that prohibit unlawful political consideration and unlawful political contacts.

Among the accomplishments that have led to Cook County’s achieving substantial compliance in the Shakman case are:

  • Adopting and implementing a comprehensive Employment Plan for all County offices under the jurisdiction of the President, including the Cook County Public Defender. Also, adopting and implementing a comprehensive Employment Plan for the OIIG and the Cook County Health and Hospital System.
  • Implementing pro-active and transparent employment-related policies, practices and procedures that will prevent and remedy the negative effects of unlawful political contacts and unlawful political discrimination as required by Executive Order, ordinances and applicable law.
  • Implementing employment-related policies, practices and procedures that prohibit employment actions that prohibit the influence of political reasons and factors for non-exempt positions.
  • Required reporting to the OIIG for every employee of the County who learns of, or has a reasonable belief that, unlawful political discrimination has occurred or is occurring.
  • Creating a complaint hotline, formal reporting procedures and whistleblower protections that support the investigative and disciplinary process and effectively detect and deter wrongdoing.
  • Required reporting to the OIIG for every employee who receives or has reason to believe a political contact has occurred or is occurring.
  • Prohibiting retaliation, punishment or penalty for reporting a political contact, initiating a complaint related to any alleged unlawful political contact or unlawful political discrimination, or cooperating with or assisting those investigations.
  • Empowering the OIIG to independently monitor and investigate County and CCHHS Employment Plans for substantial compliance and unlawful political discrimination and unlawful political contact.
  • Passing new ordinances and protocols to increase the scope of the OIIG’s authority and requiring that County employees cooperate with such investigations.
  • Adopting regular reporting and auditing requirements related to various elements of the Employment Plans and supplemental policies in order in order to increase public transparency and accountability.
  • Developing and conducting extensive training programs to educate employees.

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