Emanuel appoints hiring watchdog to be his personnel chief
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 21, 2011 3:06PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Determined to get out from under the Shakman decree, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Thursday chose the deputy inspector general in charge of hiring oversight to be his personnel chief.
“Taxpayers deserve a city government that hires the best-qualified candidates — not the best-connected,” Emanuel said in a statement announcing the $151,572-a-year appointment.
“Soo Choi has the experience, commitment and talent needed to see that change through. ... Choi’s experience monitoring and policing the city’s hiring practices makes her an ideal candidate to lead the Department of Human Resources.”
Choi currently serves as the city’s deputy inspector general in charge of hiring oversight. Her appointment came as welcome news to attorney Michael Shakman, the original plaintiff in the marathon case against political hiring and firing at City Hall.
“It’s a good sign. She’s a reformer. She seems to be a straight-shooter and a person who understands the importance of taking politics out of city government,” Shakman said.
Shakman described Mayor Daley’s attempt to implement a hiring system free of politics as “poor.” He pointed to the affidavit recently filed by federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan.
In it, Brennan complained about the city’s failure to discipline employees engaged in hiring frauds tied to the convictions of Daley’s former patronage chief Robert Sorich and former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez.
“It’s apparent that, under Daley, there was only lip-service paid to reform,” Shakman said.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Choi’s “direct knowledge of the legal, structural and operational problems” in the city’s personnel system would allow her to “hit the ground running.”
But, he warned, “To turn the page on the sorry chapter of patronage in city employment, Ms. Choi will require the full institutional and public support of the incoming mayor — something not afforded the most recent occupant in this important position.”
He added, “This office will continue to provide stringent oversight of the city’s hiring processes to ensure the city complies with the Shakman decree.”
Sources said Emanuel has also decided to retain at least two members of Mayor Daley’s cabinet: Chief Procurement Officer Jaimie Rhee and Community Development Commissioner Andy Mooney.
In 2006, Daley’s former patronage chief was convicted of rigging city hiring to benefit the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) and other pro-Daley armies of political workers. The city subsequently created a $12 million fund to compensate victims of the city’s rigged hiring system, which also led to the conviction of former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez.
Last month, Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times that he solicited resumes on the Internet — and asked a consulting firm to monitor it — in part, to make the case to get out from under the Shakman decree and the constraints of a federal hiring monitor who’s been in place since the city hiring scandal came to light in 2005.
“We’re gonna professionalize [hiring]. It’s better politics, better business and better economically. We’re paying $17 million a year to abide by a decree that’s 30 years old. It’s ridiculous,” he said then.