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Toni Preckwinkle Calls Joe Berrios Hires 'Inappropriate,' Still Backs Him

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Many in the third estate took incoming Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios to task earlier this week for hiring several members of his immediate family to work in his new office.

Joining the chorus of critics yesterday was the newly-elected Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who carried the mantle of reform to victory over Todd Stroger. Stroger himself was often criticized for hiring friends and family to the President's office.

"I think it's critically important that we bring talented, competent people into government," Preckwinkle said. "In the 19 years that I've been alderman, I never hired any family members and I think it's inappropriate."

The remarks came at a taping for WBBM-AM's "At Issue" program. Preckwinkle's interview will air this Sunday.

Joe Berrios announced at the beginning of the week that he would hire his sister Carmen and son Joey to the Assessor's office. The two had worked for him in his previous position at the Board of Review.

When asked about whether his opponents in the Assessor's race were right to criticize him for nepotism, Berrios responded, "I still won the election."

But despite Preckwinkle's stern words, she refused to withdraw her support from Berrios, her longtime political ally.

From the Sun-Times:

Preckwinkle stood up for Berrios [during the election], saying he's worked to make the party more diverse, making it more welcome to women and minorities.

She didn't back down from that support, saying "no" when a reporter asked whether she regretted backing him.

"I hope and expect he'll run an effective office as assessor," she said.

Preckwinkle also used the interview as a chance to announce her firing of 22 top officials from the Stroger administration, and tout the clean house she planned to bring to the County Board President's office.