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County ethics chief got dumped, but let’s keep heat on ‘Nepotism Joe’

Cook County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle congratulates newly elected County Assesor Joe Berrios 2010 morning after their electivictories.  |

Cook County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle congratulates newly elected County Assesor Joe Berrios in 2010 on the morning after their election victories. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 31, 2013 6:18AM

It’s always alarming when someone who is blowing the whistle on a powerful politician is suddenly out of a job.

In May, MaryNic Foster was summarily deposed as executive director of the Cook County Board of Ethics after five years in the job. We don’t know why. What we do know is that her board was going after Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios for larding up his payroll with relatives. Berrios is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and a political ally of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Foster’s dismissal can’t be the last chapter in this story. Whoever replaces her should continue to push the case against Berrios.

Earlier this year, the Board of Ethics said Berrios should pay $10,000 in fines and fire three family members. The board hired former city of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman to press its case.

Berrios has ignored the board, saying it has no jurisdiction over him or other independently elected officials, so it was particularly galling recently when county officials agreed to fork over $529,000 to 11 people Berrios fired improperly nearly three years ago when he became assessor. The whole scandal hasn’t cost Berrios a nickel.

In a separate legal battle, county Inspector General Patrick Blanchard is suing Berrios in a fight over Blanchard’s efforts to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in Berrios’ office. We wish Preckwinkle would put the heat on Berrios, calling him out publicly or threatening budget cuts for his office.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the County Board will vote on moving the Commission on Women’s Issues under the office of the president. If there are any plans to restructure Board of Ethics as well, it should not be moved under the control of any elected official. It must stay independent — with an independent and effective executive director.

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