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Two Cook County Commissioners Refuse To Take Mandated Furlough Days

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COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Cook County Commissioners William Beavers (left) and Earlean Collins have clashed with County President Toni Preckwinkle's call for most county employees to take 10 unpaid days off by Nov. 30. | CookCountyGov.com

Two Cook County commissioners lashed out Tuesday against a County Board mandate requiring them to join the majority of the county's employees in taking 10 unpaid days by the budget year's end on Nov. 30.

Commissioners Earlean Collins (1st District) and William Beavers (4th District) said they will not comply with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's call for the five furlough and five shutdown days -- unpaid days off expected to save the county $30 million of a projected $315 million budget shortfall in 2012, according to the Chicago News Cooperative.

“The commissioners are the leaders of the county and they ought to be abiding by a budget which they passed unanimously,” Preckwinkle said Tuesday, according to the CNC. She added that commissioners' non-compliance with the furloughs "will be considered" in 2012 budget allocations.

But Beavers and Collins consider the mandatory furloughs are illegal in that they violate the state constitution's provision that elected officials cannot have their salaries increased or decreased while in office, NBC Chicago reports.

"I will not sit by and take my cut because I know this board nor the president can cut my salary," Collins said.

Collins further noted that her office has already sacrificed considerably as her district office's current budget was cut by just over $60,000, or nearly 15 percent of the office's previous $421,489 budget, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

As the Sun-Times points out, Collins' opposition to the furloughs stands in stark contrast to what she said of them two days after she and the rest of the board approved them as part of the county's final budget in February.

"Can I give up 10 days? Yes. Absolutely," Collins told the Sun-Times then.

A new report released by County Comptroller Constance Kravitz was a principal catalyst of the furlough argument. According to Kravitz's report, with only three months to go before the Nov. 30 deadline, only about $16 million (just over half) of the mandated unpaid days had been taken by the affected county employees -- a figure which some commissioners contested as inaccurate, according to the News Cooperative.

An updated report reflecting some departments' staffing changes is expected to be issued Wednesday.

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