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Emanuel on federal hiring monitor: She’s wrong

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo.  I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 27, 2012 6:17AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he’s not dissing a federal hiring monitor. He simply disagrees with her.

Emanuel fired back one day after the Sun-Times reported that Noelle Brennan was blasting his administration for its “combative” response to her suggestions that the rookie mayor discipline city officials for their roles in the city hiring scandal.

“I take seriously the work of the monitor. I take seriously also making sure we have a modern practice of hiring people and professionally done,” the mayor said.

“I take the work seriously enough that I asked us to review the recommendations. And I will continue to work with them on changes, but we came to a different set of conclusions.”

Brennan could not be reached for comment. She has been paid $5.8 million over the last seven years to ride herd over city hiring, $587,000 of it since Emanuel took office.

The Sun-Times reported Monday that Brennan has recommended disciplinary action against four high-ranking employees in the city’s Department of Transportation and urged Emanuel to place a retired CDOT employee on the list of people ineligible to be rehired.

In court filings, Brennan says the Emanuel administration has rejected her advice “for the most part,” instead hiring outside lawyers to conduct a “re-investigation” of the accusations that she leveled.

“Whereas the monitor’s office hoped to complete these investigations through a collaborative approach, the city’s approach is more akin to litigation,” she says in a written report to Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier. “Although the city need not agree with the monitor’s discipline recommendations, it similarly need not approach the process in such a combative mode.”

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that the Emanuel administration had given a 90-day suspension to Hugh Donlan, a city official who testified under oath that he helped rig hiring for job applicants tied to the old Hispanic Democratic Organization and other pro-Daley political groups. City officials said they did so under pressure from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

Also on Monday, Emanuel responded for the first time to last week’s Sun-Times disclosure that the city is paying Chicago firefighters and paramedics more than $80 million a year for perks that boosted their salaries by an average of $15,000 apiece.

The mayor noted that the Laborers Union has agreed to roughly $30 million in work rule changes over the next six years and said it’s high time firefighters do the same.

“It is a key goal of mine to take [excess] costs out of the system [and usher in] ways to do things more efficiently and more respectful of taxpayer money,” Emanuel said.

Arguing that he is having “good conversations” with the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, the mayor said, “We’ve identified what I think are things that need to be changed to modernize our system. We’re not the only city in the country facing this. But, we have to resolve it to be fair to … the firefighters, but also very fair to the residents and the taxpayers of the city of Chicago.”

The Sun-Times reported last month that Emanuel is seeking a laundry list of cost-cutting concessions from Chicago firefighters that take aim at such treasured union perks as: holiday and duty availability pay; clothing allowance; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; the physical fitness incentive and the 7 percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter paramedics.

The mayor’s plan does not include closing fire stations. But it would alter the minimum manning requirement that triggered the bitter 1980 firefighters strike.

The current contract requires that every piece of fire apparatus be staffed by at least five employees. Emanuel’s plan calls for all “double houses” that include both engines and trucks to be staffed by nine firefighters instead of 10.

Tom Ryan, president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, has characterized the cost-cutting contract concessions the mayor is seeking from firefighters as “horrendous,” “insulting” and “ridiculous.”

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