Board to Peraica: Put up or shut up

The Cook County Board sent a message to Commissioner Tony Peraica yesterday: Put up or shut up.

In an apparent response to Peraica's complaints about patronage abuses, supporters of board President Todd Stroger passed a resolution yesterday requiring commissioners to report information about improper hiring to the county's inspector general.

Peraica (R-Westchester) ran against Stroger in the last election and has often said the county is rife with corruption. Peraica was the lone voice of opposition to the resolution, arguing that its recommendations are redundant to the Cook County Ethics Ordinance, passed by the board in 2005.

The resolution came after a pointed exchange at the board's regular meeting yesterday. The measure also requires  commissioners to  maintain documents about corruption complaints and notify  the  county's  court-appointed  hiring monitor, retired Circuit Judge Julia Nowicki, of any irregularities.

On April 9, Nowicki testified to the board that she has seen little movement by Stroger to address patronage and has heard dozens of complaints from county employees about illegal practices since her appointment 17 months ago.

Commissioners said the resolution should make their duties regarding patronage clear.

"All too often commissioners go on the record and say they know there's patronage all over the place. It's time to own up," said Commissioner Joseph Moreno (D-Chicago), who sponsored the measure. "If you heard something you've got to report it. We want to know where it's at so we can fix it."

Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago), another ally of Stroger, agreed. "All you hear is 'I heard this, I heard that.' It basically comes from two or three commissioners. Put up or shut up, that's what you need to do," said Beavers.

Moreno tied the resolution directly to Peraica's  complaints.

"You make a lot of allegations but when questioned who said what you never have answers," said Moreno.

Peraica countered: "Moreno is the one who should have concerns about people reporting patronage."

He added that in 2006 former Moreno aide Julie Lively told reporters she helped the commissioner maintain a "clout list" recommending jobs for individuals with political ties.

"This resolution would appear to be against his self-interest," said Peraica.

Peraica said the resolution was an attempt at retaliation for his uphill battle against corruption.

"I'm a voice in the wilderness here," he said.