Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finally, Some Investigation onto Cook County Spending

I miss the days of real investigative journalism, rather than off the cuff assumptions and a rush to be the first to break the news.  On the heels of the state income tax increase here in Illinois, CBS2 released this article, detailing an investigation into our County Treasurer, Maria Pappas.  It is a completely awesome article, and I hope they continue to investigate her and some of these other elected officials, who seem to have nothing better to do than take advantage of the system.

The gist of it is that a man who appears to only work as her driver, carting her to yoga classes and other places, waiting around for her, and running her personal errands, makes $94,000 a year on the taxpayer dime.  Strangely, his job description is as a Project Leader, which responsibilities of "consulting with county officials 'in the design, development and implementation of varied and highly sophisticated computer software applications to enhance business operations.'"  Needless to say, his responsibilities do not match this job description.  The article states:
So what was he doing after picking Pappas up at her home one morning last month at about 10:45 a.m., then taking her to the East Bank Club for a yoga class, and waiting nearby for more than an hour and a half in a Dodge Caravan the Treasurers office leases for $13,680 a year?

“[He's] going to stay with me 24/7, no matter what,” Pappas said.
How is this allowed?  I can understand if she needs security at times, but why does the County Treasurer need a personal driver at all times, 24/7?  To take her to yoga?  Are you kidding me?  For God's sakes, she's not the President of the United States.  And why is he listed as a Project Leader instead of a "driver"?  This is exactly the kind of waste that I'm sure is going on everywhere in Cook County.   

Pappas also employs a woman to clean her offices each night to the tune of $57,000 per year.  Her job description is Administrative Analyst, with responsibilities of "performs detailed investigation and analysis of operational systems and procedures, program and organization structures and polices to ascertain fiscal, technical, administrative or other problems which need further attention."  Again, the job description has no match to the actual responsibilities performed.

Why the mismatch?  If there is nothing to hide here, why is it so hidden?  Pappas said this:
“All the job descriptions in the county are improper,” Pappas said, “And there is no position for janitor. That’s sort of how the county’s antiquated system works.”
This may not be so true:
But we checked the phone-book sized county budget and it turns out there are listings for janitorial positions in the budget of the Cook County Sheriff, who’s department is responsible for providing staff to clean the county building. And they do clean Pappas’ office, but apparently not good enough to please Pappas.
“I am a neat freak,” Pappas admitted, “I want it immaculate. You’re right.” She said Kawa is the best person to do the job and, “I’m not getting rid of her.”

This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me boiling mad, given the tax increases.  This sense of entitlement.  When our governmental workers are taking advantage of the "free money" from the taxpayers in the idea that everything should be exactly to their liking.  Welcome to the real world.  Sometimes you don't get everything you want, and you shouldn't get it at the expense of the taxpayers.  Is the staff to clean the county building really that bad?  If so, who else is complaining?  Did she or someone from her department address the issue?

Okay, maybe she isn't all bad:
Pappas has cut her payroll by 50% since she was first elected in 1998 and she says she plans on meeting the challenge to reduce her budget by another 16% as requested by the Cook County Board President.

But think about how much more her payroll could probably be cut, and what other cuts might be available to make.

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