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County Board makes it easier to choose Preckwinkle successor

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, left, and Commissioner John P. Daley during a County Board meeting in 2015. File Photo. | Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, left, and Commissioner John P. Daley during a County Board meeting in 2015. File Photo. | Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

As one of their first orders of business, the newly sworn-in Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday gave themselves more flexibility in replacing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, if she is elected mayor.

The County Board voted unanimously to approve an update to its rules governing a presidential vacancy, allowing commissioners to choose Preckwinkle’s replacement from among themselves, rather than have the post automatically go to the board’s president pro tempore until the next election, in 2020.

According to the updated ordinance, if the vacancy in the president’s office is due to death, resignation or removal from office, the 17-member board has 30 days to pick a new president. The first person to get a simple majority, nine votes, will fill the vacancy.

Until the board picks its new leader, the president pro tempore, Commissioner Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, would take over the duties of the president.

Preckwinkle’s mayoral bid has fueled speculation about who will grab her powerful job running Cook County government if she moves on to City Hall. Insiders expect Cook County Commissioner John Daley to emerge as a frontrunner.

Under the updated ordinance — drafted by Daley and Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston — if more than 28 months of the term remain, a special election will be held at the next general election to serve out the remainder of the term.

If less than 28 months remain, the appointed president serves out the remainder of the term until the next regularly scheduled election. That appointee would be free to run in the election, Suffredin said.

In both scenarios, the commissioner chosen as board president in the initial 30 days may act as both a commissioner and board leader until the next general election.

Before Tuesday’s change, the president pro tempore would have served as County Board president until voters had a chance to weigh in two years from now.

Back in September, the county’s legal counsel said that under state law, if the board presidency becomes vacant, it would not be filled until the next general election, in this case November of 2020.

At that time, only current County Board members could run for the office.

Until that election, under the county’s rules, the president’s powers and duties would be assumed by the president pro tempore, a post the board reappointed Sims to on Tuesday.

The board on Tuesday also voted unanimously to appoint former Commissioner Ed Moody to the role of Recorder of Deeds, a vacancy created when Karen Yarbrough resigned the post to become the Cook County Clerk.

Suffredin said Moody “has shown the ability to understand complex issues and to go forward and work with a number of people to resolve issues.”

In his new role, Moody said, “I can promise you there will be a transparency in that office and me or my staff will reach out to you on a quarterly basis and keep you apprised of” what’s going on in the office.