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Cook County watchdog planning exit after helping find successor: ‘It’s good government’

Cook County Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard said he’s not being forced out. “It simply was designed to capture the reality that I’m approaching 30 years of service which is the time when people can retire if they want.”

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard
Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard
Tom Cruze/Chicago Sun-Times file

Cook County’s top watchdog plans to bow out in 2022 after 14 years trying to sniff out corruption, misconduct and other wrongdoing by government employees.

The move is laid out in a proposed amendment to a county ordinance governing how to choose a successor to Cook County Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard.

Blanchard’s current six-year term ends in October, but he’ll return for a special two-year term to complete his 30 years of total employment by the county and to assist officials as they look for a replacement. That process could take eight months to a year.

Blanchard’s exit plan was first reported by Crain’s.

Blanchard said he’s not being forced out of the position.

“It simply was designed to capture the reality that I’m approaching 30 years of service which is the time when people can retire if they want. ... So it’s designed to capture that notion and also what will undoubtedly be a long period of time to allow the search and reappointment process to take place, and it’s a very good thing,” Blanchard said. “It’s good government.”

Blanchard is currently in his second six-year term as inspector general. Before taking on the watchdog post, he spent about 15 years as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney.

 Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard outside his Loop office in 2012.
Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard outside his Loop office in 2012.
Tom Cruze~Sun-Times file

During his time as inspector general, Blanchard developed a reputation for sharp elbows with pols and payrollers alike.

In a July report, Blanchard’s office suggested the Cook County Board of Review had a hiring process for employees that put clout before qualifications.

Blanchard concluded the board, which handles appeals of property assessments, has no formal hiring process, hired people “despite incomplete application materials and lack of formal process,” and uses an application form that contains the question “‘who recommended you to us?’”

Last year, Blanchard butted heads with Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. over allegations that the Northwest Side Democrat stepped in when his political friend Luis Pena was given a $250 parking ticket in 2018. Arroyo said he weighed in to make sure Latinos were being treated fairly.

After that incident, Arroyo Jr. said he and other members of the County Board were concerned about Blanchard’s fitness for the position — but none of the 11 commissioners polled by the Chicago Sun-Times at the time were willing to publicly share such reservations.

In a statement, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Blanchard requested the two-year appointment and it will “ensure continuity in operations during this process.”

The matter will come before the Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Wednesday and then will likely go before the full board of commissioners Thursday.