Thursday, December 27, 2007

Human resources

Posted By on 12.27.07 at 07:06 PM

The city's Democratic machine is and always has been built on jobs: whoever's in the position to hand them out or take them away gets to do what he wants, from setting tax rates to, say, bypassing the process set in law for picking a police chief. So we thought it made sense to check Chicago’s political pulse by reviewing a few of the Daley administration’s personnel moves. And again, we welcome your comments. --Ben Joravsky & Mick Dumke

 

  1. The police department disbands its Special Operations Section. SOS officers had the freedom to move to high-crime spots citywide and were credited by the department with reducing violence. Critics, on the other hand, long complained that many SOS officers were overzealous and quick to use excessive force. This summer aldermen learned that officers from the elite unit led the department in collecting misconduct complaints; others were charged with home invasion and kidnapping, and one with plotting to murder another officer. In October interim superintendent Dana Starks announced that he was breaking up SOS. The 100 or so officers who made up the troubled unit? They've been moved to other police divisions and special teams.
  2. Christopher Kozicki admits to fixing testing results for city job applicants, then gets promoted. After Kozicki confessed that he helped the well connected get inspector jobs in the Department of Buildings, Inspector General David Hoffman recommended that the planning department fire him. But Mayor Daley overruled Hoffman, with city officials explaining that ousting Kozicki would send the wrong message to whistleblowers. Kozicki, who used to be a driver for Mayor Daley’s younger brother, county commissioner John Daley, ended up with a higher-paying job. Planning department officials wouldn’t return calls for comment on what qualifies Kozicki for a $130,000-a-year position.
  3. Frank Kruesi’s skills are tapped again. In February Daley dismissed Kruesi from his job as CTA president in part because his arrogance alienated state legislators. In December Daley picked him to serve as the city’s chief federal lobbyist. Part of his job will entail making nice with congressmen.
  4. The city fires former water department employee John Resa a mere two and a half months after he pleaded guilty to federal perjury charges. Resa, a onetime organizer for the Hispanic Democratic Organization, has a history of nice gigs with the city. From 2003 until October 2006 he stayed away from his job and collected disability pay; he was finally called back to work after the Sun-Times wrote about him. In December 2006 he was indicted for perjury by a federal grand jury, and the city moved to fire him a couple weeks later. But Resa appealed his termination, receiving pay and benefits for months while his case was in limbo. He finally pleaded guilty to lying in August and was canned for good in November, days before he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
  5. The city upholds its firing of former water department employee/whistle-blower/gadfly/political activist Frank Coconate [scroll down to "The Coconut Brings in a Closer"]. After generating hundreds of pages of paper in hearing transcripts, spending thousands of dollars, and mobilizing two lawyers and several high-ranking water department officials, the city persuaded a hearing officer that Coconate should indeed be terminated from his safety-inspector job for not properly stapling work-site photographs to reports. The three-person Human Resources Board, which is appointed by Mayor Daley, upheld Coconate’s firing. But Coconate has appealed in circuit court, arguing that his real sin was criticizing the mayor and several department programs. He adds that someone else did the stapling for his reports.
  6. The Department of Planning and Development cracks down on rogue student interns. In March a student intern was forced to resign from the planning department when a high-ranking department official “began more strictly enforcing the rule that student interns actually be students,” according to the city’s court-appointed hiring monitor. The intern, it turned out, hadn’t been in school for a year. But he ended up lucking out: just when he lost his city job, the department decided to “outsource” his work to a private company. This contractor then decided to hire the intern to do the same work he’d been doing at the same desk he’d been using while he was a city employee.

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