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Berrios’ unlawful political firings expected to cost taxpayers $529,000

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. | Sun-Times Files

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. | Sun-Times Files

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Updated: August 19, 2013 2:30PM

County taxpayers will likely be on the hook for the $529,000 expected to be paid to 11 employees who were fired for unlawful political reasons by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios after he took office in 2010.

A federally appointed county monitor assigned to sift through alleged violations of the Shakman Decree, which bans political hiring and firing for certain positions, decided the claims by the 11 former employees were legitimate and has recommended the Cook County Board approve the payment.

The board meets for its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, and is expected to vote on the claims.

Commissioner Peter Silvestri, a Republican from Elmwood Park, said he sees no way around approving the payment, but he doesn’t like it. “The funds could be used for public safety or public health,” he said. “But failure to [approve the claims] would probably put us back in federal court, the options are not real great.”

Employee claims vary from $1,000 to $95,000.

Berrios is an old school politician who has a history of unapologetically flouting hiring rules and putting relatives on the payroll. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

“We have to get to the point where the federal court believes political hiring and firing is finished, and they remove the monitor. That’s the goal,” said Silvestri. “This is the latest chapter in a long saga. There will be more chapters, but the goal is to get to the end.”

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