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Fardon: Hiring freeze could undermine federal prosecutions in Chicago area

Zach Fardon

Zach Fardon

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Updated: February 11, 2014 6:28AM

U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon has renewed his call for Congress to end the two-year long hiring freeze that’s left him nearly 20 prosecutors understrength.

Giving his first TV news conference since his appointment late last year, Fardon said the cuts imposed on his office by the sequester don’t make economic sense, because Chicago’s federal prosecutors collected $78 million in fines and seizures last year — twice what it cost to run his office.

The budget constraints leave him “historically challenged” and could eventually undermine his efforts to tackle violence, political corruption and other crimes, he said.

Fardon’s comments — which echo those he made in an interview with print journalists last year — were part of a coordinated national effort by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday to put pressure on Congress to reach a deal that will allow it to start hiring again.

The decisions of many of Chicago’s most seasoned federal prosecutors to move into more lucrative private practice over the last two years has left “19 cold, empty chairs” in his office, he said.

Fardon said he hoped it wasn’t “Pollyannaish” of him to hope that the U.S. Attorney’s office could be kept out of partisan battles over tax and spending, given that his office is a profit center for the government, though he acknowledged that the figures he quoted didn’t include the cost of running the federal law enforcement agencies that bring cases to prosecutors.


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