The bad press about new furniture gracing the office of lame duck Cook County President Todd Stroger is merely office backstabbing from personnel looking to ingratiate themselves with the incoming president, Stroger's communication director said Friday.
Gene Mullins, responding to reports that Stroger gifted him with $13,000 worth of furniture as a going away present, says the furniture was for everyone. The furniture was delivered in April, Mullins said, and the only reason the flap's still in the papers is because employees are positioning themselves for their next boss.
"What's at the root of this is that there are top level executives in his Administration who are trying to screw him for job security, come the next President in December," said Mullins.
Mullins displayed a stack of vouchers which documented the purchases of the new furniture. The vouchers did not spell out which piece of furniture went to which employee, but Mullins says the new furniture was spread out among 20 administrative offices for Stroger.
Among the 30 items purchased in this order: chairs, desks, cabinets and shelving, with the items ranging in cost from $72 to $ 736 for guest chairs, three of which were placed in Mullins' office.
Mullins says the furniture replaces chairs and desks that were both unsightly and unsafe.
"The chairs were breaking when people were sitting in them," Mullins said. Mullins added that funding for the furniture came from leftover money from last year's budget. He says the purchase was a sound one.
But County Commissioner Tony Peraica characterized the buy as an ill-timed grab by a lame duck Administration.
"The dollar amount doesn't really matter," said Peraica. "It's the symbolism of the situation ... the Stroger Administration is kinda giving the finger to the taxpayers on their way out the door."
On a housekeeping note, President Stroger is still awaiting the arrival of a new desk for his fifth floor office. Mullins says he has no idea when the desk will show up.