A report issued Wednesday shows that since losing the February primary, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has hired six top-level employees with salaries ranging from $95,000 to $150,000.
He has also issued ten raises to staffers since a county-wide pay freeze was enacted in December 2009.
The report was prompted by allegations of impropriety from Stroger's office, including the hiring of Carla Oglesby, whose public relations firm worked for Stroger's campaign and was contracted by the city two weeks after she was hired.
In a separate case, Jaye Williams, Stroger's chief financial officer, received a $54,000 raise with no approval from the county board.
News reports surrounding Oglesby and Williams prompted the county commissioners to seek today's official accounting.
And, indeed, more improprieties were revealed.
Frank E. Gardner, a River Forest lawyer, was hired by Stroger last month as an ethics counselor for the county's Human Rights Commission at a salary of $95,000 -- even though pay for that post was pegged at $64,000 in the budget. Gardner has made contributions to Stroger's campaign fund and the 8th Ward Democratic Organization, which Stroger's late father, John, built into a political powerhouse.
But Stroger wasn't the only one accused of giving undisclosed raises. Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool promoted one of his staffers to chief of staff, a move that came with a $20,000 raise.
Claypool told the Sun-Times that it was all a misunderstanding:
In an interview, Claypool noted that was less than the $90,000-plus her predecessor earned, and Cochran's former job will remain vacant.
Another staffer, Louise Pollok, took on some of Cochran's duties, and her salary went from $49,947 to $53,000, Claypool said.
Still, "it may be a technical violation'' of the new ordinance, Claypool said.
"We will correct the one error if we're told that money-saving maneuver is out of sync with the ordinance,'' he said.
The County Board will decide next week whether it will immediately rescind all the raises, or listen to arguments -- like Claypool's -- for why they should stay, writes the Sun-Times.
Still, as finance committee head John Daley said, "A raise in this market is hard to explain."