Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x1 - Berrios spox says Tribune story “extremely unbalanced and, typically, unfair” *** ILGOP, Kaegi react to new Tribune story on Berrios
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*** UPDATED x1 - Berrios spox says Tribune story “extremely unbalanced and, typically, unfair” *** ILGOP, Kaegi react to new Tribune story on Berrios

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017

* The story referenced below is here. From the ILGOP…

“There’s a reason why J.B. Pritzker is silent on his allies’ use of patronage - Pritzker has been on the receiving end of Blagojevich patronage himself. If elected, J.B. Pritzker would use state government to dole out patronage jobs to his allies and cronies of Madigan’s Chicago Machine. Illinois taxpayers can’t afford J.B. Pritzker’s tacit approval of patronage and corruption.” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Aaron DeGroot

Two weeks ago, ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune published their latest installment in a bombshell report exposing the incompetence and corruption of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. The report said Berrios “failed” at his job and allowed political allies like Mike Madigan to profit from faulty assessments.

Now, ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune are out with yet another extensive investigation into Joe Berrios’ office. This time, it’s exposing his use of patronage, favoritism, and nepotism. From the investigation:

    Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios has never made any secret of his affinity for old-school politics that put a premium on loyalty and favors.

    … The monitors’ reports, reviewed by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois, reveal a persistent pattern in Berrios’ office of improper hiring and firing, arbitrary staffing decisions and resistance to change. The pace of reform has been slow and the assessor’s commitment often tepid, records and interviews show.

Berrios, who is backing J.B. Pritzker for governor, isn’t the only Pritzker supporter who has a problem with patronage. Pritzker supporters Jesse White and Mike Madigan both have been accused of a “pattern of patronage” in their offices and using state agencies to put loyal precinct captains in plum state jobs.

But why is J.B. Pritzker silent on his allies’ use of patronage?

Because he’s dabbled in their same corrupt system himself. Pritzker was on the receiving end of Blagojevich’s patronage, receiving a state appointment and attempting to get another. If elected, J.B. Pritzker would use state government to dole out patronage jobs just like his crooked allies - Blagojevich, Madigan, White, Berrios, and more.

* Kaegi campaign…

Following is a statement from Fritz Kaegi, the progressive Democrat running against embattled incumbent Assessor Joe Berrios in the March 2018 primary election, in response to the latest Chicago Tribune and ProPublica investigative report on nepotism and political patronage in the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

“Reports that Joe Berrios continues to operate in flagrant violation of the Shakman Decree confirms what many have known for years–that the current Assessor is only concerned with lining the pockets of his family and connected political allies while the taxpayers of Cook County continue to pick up the tab.

“When we began our campaign, I committed to fully implementing all Shakman requirements– and going beyond them to give the taxpayers of Cook County the confidence they deserve in a property tax assessment system that is fair, equitable and transparent for all. Cook County’s is the largest assessor’s office in the country, and needs staffers that are qualified and committed to reforming the assessment process. Cook County has the diverse talent needed to fix this problem and we are committed to building a diverse, qualified workforce that reflects our communities and protects our values. Berrios’ corruption, nepotism and patronage places an unbearable economic burden on working families already struggling under the Trump and Rauner administrations’ backward economic policies.”

*** UPDATE *** From the assessor’s office…

The writers of this Tribune story selectively omitted many key facts. These facts were given to one of the writers as part of approximately 27 emails and 11 phone calls over seven weeks.

The important information the Tribune did not present to readers includes that the court-appointed Monitor for Shakman accepting the Assessor’s Office Employment Plan four years ago (11/22/13). A new Monitor later decided to change that acceptance and start virtually from scratch.

The result was another year-and-a-half before implementation of the plan. Clearly, that lengthy delay was not due to the Assessor’s Office being “slow” to comply.

This story also states that the Assessor’s Chief of Staff was “rarely involved” in Shakman compliance efforts but it fails to note we hired a new Chief of Staff nearly three years ago. Three years. This new Chief of Staff has ordered complete compliance with Shakman.

Further, a new human resources chief was hired nearly three years ago. The current HR chief has also been aggressive and thorough with the goal of complete Skakman compliance and we are now at the point of full material compliance; only technical points remain. Most of what the Tribune wrote about is years-old.

Numerous references were made to the firing of the Director of Compliance (DOC), Deborah Ellis, but the Tribune failed to mention that the Shakman Monitor agreed to that change. It would not have happened without Shakman’s consent. A new DOC was hired nearly two years ago.

The Tribune’s choice to include none of these facts made the story extremely unbalanced and, typically, unfair to Assessor Berrios. It is also unfair to the Assessor’s Office HR Director, HR personnel and Shakman-specializing attorney who have brought us to near-completion of our goal of full Shakman compliance.

Tom Shaer, Deputy Assessor for Communications
Cook County Assessor’s Office

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    Patronage in the Rauner administration … how about we just start counting with Munger, then her former top staff at the Comptroller’s, and go on from there with the various other ghosts …

  2. - Pyrman - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    The ILGOP should tread lightly regarding patronage, some of Rauner’s moves at IDOT will become public before the election.

  3. - Anonish - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:30 pm:

    He who is without patronage shall call for the first warrent

  4. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    Why is Illinois in trouble, yes because of politicians like Berrios. It would be nice to see some comments that can acknowledge this rather than the childish, “But the other kids are doing it too!”

  5. - Pieroge tirebiter - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 12:54 pm:

    And when kaegi gets in he’s not going to put in some of his own people? I’m putting on my rubber boots

  6. - Rabid - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    ILGOP does newspaper reviews, do you think jeanne is a fringe candidate, that doesn’t deserve he time of day, is the primary rigged for Rauner, what is your threshold for a debate

  7. - David D. - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    “Meanwhile, the federal court monitor would review the claims of workers fired unfairly, detail developments and help push for progress until the office was found to be in compliance.”

    Better to have the monitor than not to have one, I suppose, but it sounds like the role lacks teeth and is completely unable to actually achieve any progress.

  8. - The young gov - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:05 pm:

    This Tribune article reminded me to revisit the incredible First Tuesdays at the Hideout episode from October 2016 with Ben Joravsky, Mitch Dumke and Joe Berrios. I have the day off so I re-listened:

    My highlights:
    Mitch: I have to ask you, was this system fair? It seems to us that you believe in the old school patronage system and it treated you well on one level and you had opportunities. On the other hand, this era you are talking about in the 60s and 70s, the whole west side was Hispanic and African American, and was still being led by old white guys who were tied to former Mayor Daley. So was the system fair? Explain how it was possibly fair and good for the people you were serving.

    Berrios: You’ve got to remember that in our area the Hispanic migration was coming. You would be surprised under the old system how many people we were able to help on a day to day basis. We were able to get city jobs for them. Of course they became members of the organization. Let’s be honest. The deal back then was, you worked the precincts and after a year or so you proved that you could do the job and they would help you get a job in city or county government. They created a lot of opportunities for Hispanics in our community. If you look at the other communities, those people were given opportunities that they would not have gotten. Back then, the drop-out rate in the Hispanic community was 89-91% from high school. They didn’t have an opportunity to go to college, let alone get out of high school. It created opportunities for people who would not have had an opportunity back then. This was a way to stabilize families, get a position, maybe a garbage man. I never thought I would be an elected official. I wanted a garbage truck job.

    Ben: But that same organization that gave jobs to loyal members was the same organization that was responsible for discriminatory practices in the park district and the schools for years and years of historical discrimination. Did you ever have a hard time struggling with that contradiction? A few people were being helped, but the larger people were not.

    Berrios: We were willing to help everyone. If they were willing to come in and help. Back then…I took a class in college where Vito Marzullo came in one day. I had [Dick] Simpson as my teacher and I never told him I was with [Alderman] Tom Keane. Vito Marzullo came in and one of the questions from the class was “You get jobs for people who volunteer..” and Simpson tried to say something and Vito said “You sit down, you invited me here. Let me talk and say what I have to say.” And Vito Marzullo was straight up and he told him, “Listen, who am I supposed to help? Someone I don’t know or someone who comes in and shows me they are willing to work and they have a great family. I am supposed to help someone who helps me. I’d rather have someone in a position that I know is gonna do a good job because if they don’t do a good job, I’m going to get a phone call. I don’t want to put anyone in a position that would embarrass me or the organization.” So they helped me and a lot of people who would never have gotten an opportunity if it weren’t for the political games.

    “I was double dipping. You know the story. I was a State Rep, but I worked at the Board of Review as an accountant. Believe me, I had a big family.” - Berrios

  9. - Foster brooks - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Plum state jobs? Ya if you want to work until your 67

  10. - Sue - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 1:51 pm:

    Typically things in Illinois government only change when the Feds get involved. There seems to be sufficient levels of corruption within Berrios’ office to invite scrutiny from the 5th flood at 219 S Dearborn. One can only hope the USA is going to have a look see

  11. - Sugar Corn - Thursday, Dec 21, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    ==some of Rauner’s moves at IDOT will become public before the election==

    such as?

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