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Preckwinkle cabinet member resigns to run for Jesse Jackson’s Jr.’s seat

Former Illinois Rep. RobKelly announces Sunday Mattesthshe's running for 2nd Congressional District sereplaceformer Rep. Jesse JacksJr. who resigned last month.

Former Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly announces Sunday in Matteson that she's running for the 2nd Congressional District seat to replaceformer Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned last month. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 15, 2013 11:31AM

A member of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s cabinet has resigned to devote her time and energy to running for the 2nd District Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr.

Robin Kelly, who was Preckwinkle’s chief administrative officer, had told the Sun-Times she had planned to take a leave of absence, but in a Dec. 7th letter to Preckwinkle, Kelly stated she “will be resigning my position as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), effective immediately to run for Congress…”

Asked whether Preckwinkle called for or suggested the resignation in light of Kelly’s bid for Congress, Preckwinkle spokesman Kristen Mack stated in an email: “Robin chose to resign to fully commit to running her congressional campaign.”

In the three-paragraph letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Sun-Times, Kelly told Preckwinkle she was “proud of the work we accomplished in the Bureau of Administration.”

“I take public service and elected office seriously. And I take this campaign for Congress seriously. It would not be fair to either the taxpayers or the residents of the 2nd district to try and do both,” Kelly said in a statement later Thursday.

Kelly, who was also a chief of staff to former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, was among Preckwinkle’s first hires when she won the November 2010 election and was earning $172,519 annually, according to payroll records.

The average congressman makes about $174,000.

During her two years on the job, Kelly was best known for leading a clean-up effort at the Cook County morgue after the Sun-Times first reported in January staff complaints of crowded and filthy conditions at the West Side facility.

Photos of bodies piling up in the cooler at the West Side facility and employees there complaining about bodily fluid pooling on the floor, proved to be Preckwinkle’s first big embarrassment in office.

The complaints prompted a state labor department probe, and Preckwinkle publicly criticized management inside the facilty at 2121 W. Harrison — leading to the resignation of Chief Medical Examiner Nancy Jones and the firing of one of her deputies out the door.

Ultimately, Kelly carried out Preckwinkle’s orders to overhaul the morgue operations, including changing policies and procedures to ensure staffers were doing their jobs and making sure a cleaning schedule was in place at the facility. The morgue is under the direct authority of Preckwinkle’s Bureau of Administration, which Kelly ran.

Kelly is among the slew of candidates attempting to win the Democratic party’s nod in Saturday’s slating.

At least one candidate, Ald. Anthony Beale, said he believes loyalties will be so split that in the end, no one will be slated.

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