Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios | Sun-Times files
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:08AM
There’s good government. And then there’s nepotism. They’re polar opposites.
For some reason, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios doesn’t see that, so let’s keeping hounding him until he does — if only to warn other elected officials inclined toward the scummy old-school ways of Chicago politics.
After Berrios was elected assessor in 2010, he promptly hired his son, Joseph “Joey” Berrios, and his sister, Carmen Berrios. His daughter, Vanessa Berrios, who already was on the assessor payroll, promptly got a promotion and a $10,000-a-year pay raise.
Among Berrios’ defenses? Unlike other politicians who hide nepotism by trading hiring among themselves, he does it out in the open. He also points out that his son and sister worked for him when he was a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review. All he did was bring them along when he won the assessor’s job.
Last week, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who backed Berrios when he ran for assessor in 2010, said she supports legal action to force him to pay fines for violating an anti-nepotism rule.
The Cook County Board of Ethics, citing an ordinance that says officials can’t hire their relatives, concluded in June that he should fire his relatives and pay a $10,000 fine. In a Sept. 19 letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, the members of the ethics board asked the Cook County state’s attorney to take up their case against Berrios or appoint an outside lawyer to do so.
Berrios is quoting a specially appointed state’s attorney who says the ethics board can’t tell Berrios what to do because he is independently elected.
That lawyer, Steven Puiszis — who thinks Berrios and his relatives are doing a terrific job — says Berrios can win this in court.
Maybe so. But let’s all do our best to ensure that Berrios continues to lose in the court of public opinion.