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Stroger: I Didn't Try to Protect Aides' Jobs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Outgoing Cook County Board President Todd Stroger wants to set the record straight -- again -- about the brief, and icy-sounding, transition meeting he had last week with Chicago Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, who will take his job next month.

    He said that contrary to published reports, he did not ask Preckwinkle to retain top executives from his administration during their get-together, which estimates lasted no longer than five minutes.

    "Alderman Preckwinkle, getting in the newspaper, and suggesting that I asked her about positions is not true," Stroger said during a stretch of Tuesday's regular board meeting.

    The board on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for commissioners to receive a status update on the transition from the Stroger Administration to the Preckwinkle Administration.  A similar resolution was passed in September, but Preckwinkle and her transition team have complained about a lack of cooperation from Stroger and his department heads. 

    "If you called me, I'd have told you I'm working with her," a stern-sounding Stroger said as he admonished the County Board. "It is she who said I'm not (working with her), but if you ask me, you'll find out from the source."

    During the session, Stroger's Chief of Staff, Karen Crawford, presented a transition update to the commissioners stating that the Office of the President, on November 8, provided a "book with each department's organization chart, 2010 budget, 2011 projected budget and listing of open items."

    Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) seemed to try and diffuse the apparent personality conflict between Stroger and Preckwinkle by noting that the flow of information seems to have increased between the two camps since last week.

    "I think that this is public policy. This is the politics of the situation," he said.

    "What I'd like her to do is to stop playing politics," Stroger snapped back. 

    Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago), a longtime Stroger supporter, blasted Preckwinkle for threatening the jobs of Stroger Administration officials, pointing out that the day after her February Primary win, she stated her "inclination is to clean house."

    "If she quit playing politics and threatening everyone about how many people she’s going to fire....people are not crazy. They're not going to help her if she's going to fire them the next day," Beavers said with a delivery so passionate it evoked a few cheers from among the audience. "Listen. Shut up. And get over here. And try to do some work!"

    Commissioner John Daley tried to strike a note of harmony as he sought to end the discussion on the transition.

    "I would just hope that we would continue a transition that is respectful of both individuals," he said.

    Stroger fired back with a sarcastic retort.

    "Why you would think anything differently, I don’t know.  Sometimes I think you guys forget that we’ve had four years of success.  We’ve kept these doors open. We’ve cut the number of employees. We’ve kept the budget, pretty much at $3 billion," said Stroger.

    Still, the Preckwinkle team reiterated hours after the board's meeting that they need more assistance from the Stroger team.

    "The transition efforts got off to a slow start," said Jessey Neves, a Preckwinkle spokesperson.  "As we’ve said before, we’ve had some cooperation within the different departments. But we’ve got three weeks for the rest of the transition and we, put simply, we need more information and faster."