County commissioners will meet at 9:15 a.m. today to consider clarifying rules on text messaging and emails from non-government accounts and phones, resolutions supporting more strict gun licensing rules, and a name change for the Office of Adoption and Child Custody. The Finance Subcommittee on Litigation will also meet in executive session to consider nearly a dozen pending lawsuits against the county.
Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee
New rules for texting and emailing for County Board employees, two resolutions supporting expanded gun regulations, a briefing on pending legislation in Springfield and Washington, and appointments to various agencies are on the agenda for today’s Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee meeting.
A resolution supporting a bill from State Rep. Christian Mitchell and State Sen. Don Harmon that requires all applicants for a gun dealer license and their employees to have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards and a background check is up for consideration. The so-called Gun Dealer and Ammunition Seller Act would also require training for legal requirements and responsible business practices for gun sales. The preamble notes “between 2009 and 2013, four particular gun dealers, each located a short drive outside of Chicago, supplied 20% of all guns recovered from Chicago crime scenes.”
A similar resolution from Comm. Larry Suffredin urges the general assembly to institute statewide licensing and regulation of gun dealers and ranges, arguing the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has the resources to do so. “Lack of oversight makes it far too easy for gun dealers to turn a blind eye to ‘straw purchasers,’ and other traffickers,” the resolution reads. Commissioners are also due to be briefed on the status of lobbying efforts in the general assembly and in Congress.
Comm. Suffredin first proposed this ordinance in March, saying all electronic communication by officials, board or commission appointees and employees regarding official government business must be through official government email accounts. Separately elected officials and their staffs (like commissioners) may use separate email accounts associated with their own offices, or personal email accounts, but must tell Board Secretary Matthew DeLeon those accounts are being used for government purposes.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come under fire for use of private devices to conduct government business. The Chicago Tribune is currently battling the Mayor in court, alleging he violated the state’s open records laws by refusing to release private emails and text messages about city business.
Three appointments are also up for committee consideration: Judith Hamill to the Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals, Dale Niewiardowski as a Trustee of the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District, and Michael Sullivan as Commissioner of the Weller Creek Drainage District Board of Commissioners. According to her LinkedIn, Hamill served in various roles in Chicago and Cook County government from 1975 until 2009. Niewiardowski is an Elk Grove Township trustee and Vice President of three local businesses: Nevarr Inc. Lawn and Construction Equipment Division, Nevarr Inc Public Safety and Homeland Security Division and Nevarr Property Management LLC.
Subcommittee on Litigation
The subcommittee on litigation will receive several updates from Don Pechous, a representative from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, on pending litigation against the county, including:
Debra Dyer-Webster v. Dent, et al., alleges excessive force by two employees of the Rapid Response Team at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center while escorting a minor out of a classroom. The plaintiff, Debra Dyer-Webster from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services claimed two employees slammed a minor’s face against a desk, causing him “to lose consciousness, sustain an abrasion to his chin and fracture his jaw,” then verbally abused him.
Karkoszka v. Dart, et al., James Karkoszka, an inmate at Cook County Jail, was waiting for transfer from a holding cell after medical treatment for blood clots. He testified didn’t want to be handcuffed and “purposely struggled to avoid” it. Multiple officers came to the holding cell to try to handcuff him while he was “flailing around.” After he was handcuffed, the suit alleges, officers escorted him to a room where they handcuffed him to a wall, sprayed him with pepper spray, and continued to hit and kick him. Medical records from Cermak Health Services at the jail said he was “beaten badly to the head,” and sustained intra-cranial hemorrhaging. 10 employees were named in the case.
Dixon v. Cook County, et al., This case brought by Lula Dixon, mother of the deceased Kevin Dixon, alleges officers at the Cook County Jail were “deliberately indifferent” to her son’s medical condition–complications from cancer. Dixon says her son was at times paralyzed from the legs down in his cell and didn’t receive medical attention quickly enough. Judge Thomas Durkin dismissed the complaint in October 2013, saying the delay in care wasn’t deliberate indifference, and there were no specific deficiencies that may have existed in the County’s policies for medical treatment.
There is also a case involving Dr. George Cybulski, a neurosurgeon who became head of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System Division of Neurosurgery in 2004, but left in 2009. He is still medical staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and Stroger Hospital. He is listed as a plaintiff against the County.
Business and Economic Development
Three Class 8 property tax breaks are up for consideration by commissioners today. Properties that receive a Class 8 break are assessed at a lower rate: 10% of the market value for 10 years, 15% for the 11th year and 20% in the 12th year (instead of 25%).
2520 Lincoln Highway, Olympia Fields: This property, in a commercial strip mall, has been vacant for 19 months–short of the 24 months generally required for a Class 8 break–but commissioners can consider it vacant under special circumstances. The applicant, ES Realty Olympia Fields LLC, plans to provide 8 full time jobs at the site.
16823 State Street and 61 East 168th Street, South Holland: Simone Kapovich/ S&J Construction is interested in purchasing this property for Industrial-Warehousing and logistics purposes, in addition to adding 18 full time jobs. According to the application, the property is in need of substantial rehabilitation. According to Google Maps, it appears S&J is already located at 61 E. 168th St.
13820 South Marquette, Burnham: Five full time jobs would be created and 165 would be retained at this waste hauling operation in Burnham. National waste handling company Mr. Bult’s Inc. (MBI) is the applicant. Their headquarters are just around the corner from the proposed location.
There is also an amendment to a previously passed item creating a special purpose fund to defray administrative and project delivery costs for the Broadening Urban Investment to Leverage Transportation (BUILT) in Cook Loan Program (funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). The program was created to allow the County to borrow money from private investors at reduced interest rates to “promote economic development, stimulate job growth and improve public facilities.”
Health and Hospitals Committee
A rename for the Cook County Office of Adoption and Child Custody is the only agenda item for the committee. The agency’s new name would be the Department of Adoption and Family Supportive Services, and will stay under the jurisdiction of the County Bureau of Administration.The change is due to recent amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which went into effect January 1, 2016. All references to “custody” were replaced by “parental responsibility allocation.” The fingerprinting fee is being reduced from $50 to $15.