Preckwinkle, Stroger have rocky transition meeting
BY LISA DONOVAN Cook County Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle wouldnt agree to keep Todd Strogers cronies on the payroll, a source said.
A one-on-one meeting between incoming Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Todd Stroger quickly went south when he urged her to keep some of his political appointees on the county payroll, sources said.
The meeting Tuesday -the first between Preckwinkle and Stroger since she bested him in the primary election for his job last February - lasted all of five minutes, said the sources, who spoke with Stroger and Preckwinkle about the exchange.
At the meeting, first reported in the Sun-Times last week, Preckwinkle wanted to talk turkey about transitioning in to her new job, sources said. But things came to a screeching halt when Stroger told her he wanted some of his political appointees to remain with the county.
"She basically said, No way,' " one source familiar with the meeting said.
While Stroger didn't return a message left on his cellphone, he told WBBM-AM (780) on Friday: "It didn't go very well. . . . I can say that in the sense that I guess she expects me to be doing more than what we're doing now. . . . All the people in our departments are giving her full cooperation."
Stroger wasn't asked in the interview about whether he pushed Preckwinkle to keep some of his people.
Preckwinkle confirmed through a spokeswoman earlier this week that little was accomplished at the brief sit-down.
"Unfortunately, it was a very short meeting," the spokeswoman said.
Like the other candidates running for county board president, Preckwinkle made it clear during the campaign that Stroger's political appointees would be shown the door after the election.
"Things are so bad there, that [you're] going to have to replace almost all of the [political] employees because there's no way you can have any confidence in them," she said during a candidates' forum on WTTW's Chicago Tonight in October.
Some of his patronage workers have landed in legal trouble: Stroger's Deputy Chief of Staff Carla Oglesby is facing a series of felony public corruption charges for allegedly steering no-work, no-bid government contracts to her pals and even her own public relations firms.
Preckwinkle said repeatedly on the campaign trail that the Stroger administration blocked her efforts to get more information about the $3 billion county operation, which includes the courts and jail along with a health and hospital system for the poor and uninsured. Little has changed since she won the Nov. 2 election and prepares to take the reins Dec. 6th, sources say.
She sent letters directly to department heads a day before the meeting with Stroger and has met with several through the week.
With all the acrimony, Cook County Commissioners are calling on those department heads and elected leaders to to provide transition reports for Preckwinkle at next Tuesday's board meeting.
"At this point, there hasn't been a cooperative spirit from the president to the president-elect and we need to enforce this. We have to for the continuity of service and protection of the treasury," said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a Democrat who represents the far North Side and nearby suburbs.
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, a North Side Democrat, said that the transfer of power shouldn't become a political war of wills.
"All county employees are paid to be responsive to the taxpayers, and part of being responsive to the taxpayers is to have a good, productive transition," Gainer said. "The taxpayers are not well-served by stunting the ability of the new administration to take over."