Partisan Democrat

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hiring Freeze? What Hiring Freeze?

I stole the Sun-Times title from their story yesterday that Cook County has hired almost 1,300 people during a hiring freeze since John Stroger had his stroke. I must admit that my initial reaction to the story was one of upset/angry/embarrassed that people in county government would take advantage of a man's illness to pad the payroll during tough budget times. Here's the story's opening:

Almost 1,300 people were added to the Cook County payroll in the months after Cook County Board President John Stroger suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated and unable to run county government.

Here's what Republican candidate Tony Peraica had to say:

"They're thumbing their nose at Cook County taxpayers by packing the payroll with all their friends and relatives," said Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a Republican vying with Ald. Todd Stroger to be the next president. "The level of hubris they're exhibiting is absolutely amazing."

But my reaction was tempered by looking at the chart that shows where these jobs are. 718 of them are in either the Sheriff's office or corrections. You may remember that earlier this year people breaking out of jail had become almost a regular occurrence. During the primary there was one jailbreak that resulted in 5 inmates escaping, and one of the democratic primary candidates for sheriff claimed he thought the breakout was intended to make him look bad because he was a former jail guard. The sheriff's office and the jail claimed they were massively understaffed and the response was hiring.

Not to mention the fact that those jobs fall under the budget and operations of the sheriff's office, not the Cook County Board President.

Then another 251 of the jobs came from the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Dorothy Brown's office. She also claims this was in response to previous understaffing. Whether or not these jobs were needed, I have no idea. What I do know is that these jobs fall under the budget and operations of the clerk's office and not the Cook County Board President.

I have no idea if any or all of the jobs under "clerks" and/or "student aides" were necessary, although student aides sounds like summer jobs for kids to me. But clearly the Sun-Times used inflated figures that were beyond the control of the people in question to write some sort of gotcha story. I guess the mentality is that Woodward and Bernstein didn't get famous for writing puff pieces. I just don't like these over the top gotcha stories when they don't stand up to even the flimsiest scrutiny.


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