Top Preckwinkle appointee abruptly resigns, creating speculation
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter December 19, 2013 7:24PM
Cook County Chief Information Officer Lydia Murray, a top appointee of Board President Toni Preckwinkle, vowed in a speech to take the county "from oil lamps to LED lighting.” Days later she resigned, offering few details and igniting plenty of speculati
Updated: January 21, 2014 11:18AM
Days after she was heaped with praise at a civic luncheon, a top appointee of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle abruptly left her position this month — offering little explanation for her departure but creating plenty of speculation.
Chief Information Officer Lydia Murray had pledged to “take the county from oil lamps to LED lighting” during a Dec. 3 speech at the City Club, a public affairs forum frequented by civic leaders and elected officials.
“The county is remaking itself in really remarkable ways, and it’s really exciting to be a part of that renaissance,” Murray said during the luncheon.
Moments before, Preckwinkle introduced her as one of the people helping on “this path toward reform.”
“I am very grateful to her for her good work,” Preckwinkle said. “I’ve been blessed because a lot of good people have been willing to come to county government in the last three years and help us on this path toward reform, and Lydia is surely one of those.”
But just seven days later, Murray “resigned” as the county’s technology guru, citing “personal reasons,” according to a memo issued by Preckwinkle’s office.
And a YouTube video of her speech was scrubbed from a blog operated by Preckwinkle’s staff shortly thereafter.
Murray, who was hired for the post a year ago, declined to comment but released a short statement saying she “tendered my resignation for personal reasons,” calling it a “difficult decision.”
The move caught many off guard, including several commissioners who used phrases like “very competent,” “incredibly proficient” and “extremely helpful” to describe Murray. Some said they thought Murray was in for the long haul.
“If you saw the archaic-ness of our communications systems . . . and where we are now — a tip of the hat to her,” said Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, a Democrat who is also mayor of west suburban McCook.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a Democrat representing northern Cook County, said Murray was “one of the shining stars in county government.”
Preckwinkle’s office declined to comment on the particulars of Murray’s departure, but said all of her projects were still underway.
“All of those projects are still in the works. The mission of the bureau of technology . . . is still full steam ahead,” said Preckwinkle spokeswoman Kristen Mack.
Commissioner John Daley, a Preckwinkle ally, described Murray as “very competent.” But the Democrat, representing the South Side and south suburbs, added that he didn’t think her departure was a big deal.
Elected leaders get to choose their staff and — unlike rank-and-file workers — those chosen for top positions serve at will, he explained.
“I don’t know what the issue is,” Daley said. “Individuals serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Before Preckwinkle hired her, Murray worked for the county as a consultant, but earned a permanent position through her aptitude, Suffredin said. Murray was a veteran administrative staffer previously serving a stint as CTA chief of staff, where she oversaw the rollout of the CTA Bus Tracker app. Before that she was a deputy chief of staff under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.