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Political patronage hiring ban no longer needed in Cook County, Preckwinkle says

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Sneed exclusive . . .

Is the longstanding headache involving Cook County hiring prohibition about to end?

Sneed has learned Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has filed a motion in federal court seeking to end the constraints placed on her ability to hire employees imposed by the legendary 50-year-old Shakman decree lawsuit.

“This is a significant moment for Cook County and I’m grateful to those who have made this momentous accomplishment possible,” said Preckwinkle.

The motion was joined by the Shakman plaintiffs, who have been monitoring county hiring since a consent decree was entered decades ago.

“The Parties and the Compliance Administration agree that the County is in substantial compliance,” the motion filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois Friday states.

The move would apply to 10,500 jobs in the president’s office as well as the office of the inspector general, health and hospitals system and public defender. It would not apply to Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s office, which was assigned a federal monitor this summer.

The hearing on the motion will be held on Oct. 31.

RELATED: Court clerk Dorothy Brown’s office to get federal monitor for hiring practices

Backshot: In 1972, Cook County entered into a consent decree that prohibited it from politically discriminating against county employees. The lawsuit was originally filed to prevent political patronage hiring in the county.

“When I took office, I made clear that we needed to reform and reshape Cook County government and that included professionalizing the county’s employment practices in an accountable and transparent way,” Preckwinkle said in a press release Friday.

“We have worked diligently to foster a culture of professionalism and accountability and have left behind bad practices of the past,” Preckwinkle said. “We are pleased to have arrived at this moment.”

The release said since taking office in 2010, she has pushed efforts to improve hiring. She has promoted “fair and equitable employment practices; has mandated annual Employment Plan training; has implemented various reporting requirements and contact logs; encouraged reform and cooperation with the Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) and has supported policies and procedures that prohibit unlawful political consideration and unlawful political contacts,” her statement said.

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