Preckwinkle plans $43,000 raise for campaign backer
By Lisa Donovan Staff Reporteremail@example.com February 11, 2011 11:52PM
Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks to reporter Tuesday about cuts in the county budget. | Keith Hale~Sun-Times
Updated: March 14, 2011 12:24AM
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is recommending the board approve a substantial pay raise — of more than $43,000 — for one of her newest hires, a high-ranking staffer who’s been a regular contributor to Preckwinkle’s campaigns.
Mary Laraia, tapped by Preckwinkle in December to be second-in-charge at the Cook County Forest Preserve District, would see her salary rise from $111,908 to $155,172, under Preckwinkle’s plan.
Commissioner Liz Gorman, a suburban Republican, questioned the nearly 39 percent pay boost.
Forest Preserve General Supt. Arnold Randall responded that Laraia’s duties are expanding beyond the “executive assistant to the superintendent” job title of Laraia’s predecessor in the No. 2 post and that her pay and new title — expected to be deputy superintendent — will reflect that.
“We want to make some significant changes and reforms to the district, and, frankly, Mary Laraia, with her experience in finance and administration, brings a whole new level of expertise to the role,” Randall said in an interview.
Laraia formerly was Cook County’s head of capital planning and also was executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Council.
Laraia contributed $2,250 to Preckwinkle’s campaign for Cook County Board president last year, according to campaign-finance reports.
Laraia’s husband, Andrew J. Mooney, appointed by Mayor Daley last year as the acting Commissioner of the Department of Community Development, contributed $3,250 to Preckwinkle’s campaign for board president, plus another $581.65 to cover the catering tab at a campaign event last year, campaign-finance reports show.
Laraia and Mooney also contributed to Preckwinkle’s aldermanic campaigns during her 19 years on the Chicago City Council.
“It makes you wonder: Are longtime contributors being rewarded?” Gorman said.
In an interview, Preckwnkle responded by saying: “I’m not excluding people who contributed to my campaign from working for the county. She’s a very smart and intelligent person. We’re lucky to have her.”