Cook County commissioners meet beginning at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday to consider more than $12 million in legal settlements, mandated sexual harassment training for county employees and lobbyists, and a ballot question on legalization of recreational marijuana.
The Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee will meet to consider Lynette Stokes-Wilson’s position as trustee of the South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District. Stokes-Wilson holds a Doctorate in Education and is Vice President of South Suburban College.
The Rules and Administration committee will meet to discuss new procurement guidelines that allow the board to rescind a contract or amendment that fails to include all reasonably anticipated future costs, and the Labor Committee will consider prevailing wages for trade workers represented by Coalition of Unionized Public Employees (C.O.U.P.E.). That includes painters, carpenters, pipe coverers and bricklayers.
9:30 a.m. – Business and Economic Development Committee
Three property tax incentives are on Wednesday morning’s agenda:
- The first class 6b incentive on the agenda is for Curve Development in Elk Grove. The 6b gives a 12-year property tax break for new industrial facilities, the rehabilitation of existing industrial structures, and the industrial reutilization of abandoned buildings. The site, in Comm. Tim Schneider’s 15th District, has been vacant for seven months. The industrial design, manufacturing and distribution facility would create 5-10 full time jobs, retain 15 jobs in Cook County, and create 10-15 construction jobs.
- The second 6b incentive is for 1365 Mitchell LLC is also in Schneider’s district, and would boost for a Schaumburg flexible packaging distribution facility. Five full-time jobs would be created, 45 would be retained in the county, and the facility would help create 25 to 50 construction jobs.
- A class 8 incentive to encourage industrial and commercial development in economically stagnant areas of the county is the last agenda item. The incentive would create two to four full time jobs and roughly the same number of construction jobs for Dhyanni Groceries, a mini-mart in Comm. Stanley Moore’s (D-4) district.
10:00 a.m. – Finance Committee
The committee meets for consideration of more than $12 million in public safety and health settlements, including three major cases that passed through the litigation subcommittee in October. In one case, the county will pay a $3.25 million settlement to a female detainee who said she was raped by two male detainees at the Markham Courthouse, and who subsequently accused Sheriff Tom Dart’s office of civil rights violations.
According to the Daily Herald, Dart announced he would move to terminate “nine Markham courthouse employees determined to have allowed the rape of a female detainee by two male detainees in a holding cell at the courthouse” and institute new reforms, including body cameras, for guards. According to the Chicago Tribune, those employees have not been fired yet.
The committee will also vote on a $3 million settlement in the case Stotler, Helen and Billy v. Cook County to settle a medical malpractice claim. According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, this deals with a bone infection at Stroger Hospital that was misdiagnosed, leading to an amputation.
The county also agreed to a $4.75 million settlement in the case Borys v. Dart, et al., which alleges a civil rights violation at the Cook County Jail. According to the Sun-Times, the suit was filed on behalf of Michael Joseph Borys, who “says a Cook County sheriff’s officer and a commander waited too long to give Borys the anti-seizure medication a jail doctor had ordered,” resulting in Borys losing sight in one eye.
A few workers’ compensation claims also stand out, including a $126,000 payment to a sheriff’s deputy who “was escorting people for court-ordered community service when he tripped over a wire injuring both arms.” A $95,000 settlement to SEIU Local 73 to vacate an “adverse arbitration decision” is also on the agenda.
To date, the county has approved $27 million in settlements in the 2017 fiscal year.
Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s staff has also returned to the board to ask for a fund shift to help pay for, among other things, $15,000 for new blazers for employees using money earmarked for postage and office equipment. The request is part of a $200,000 fund shift request that would also help pay to install video monitors on the 11th and 22nd Floors at the Daley Center.
Brown is also requesting a $100,000 fund transfer to help cover travel costs for the vendor that handles the office’s case management system, Tyler Technologies. The county inked a $36 million deal with Tyler this past spring.
Board of Commissioners – 11:00 a.m.
The full board meets to take up new items and approve items that passed in committee Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Here are highlights from items that will be introduced today.
- 17-6302 – A resolution from three male commissioners, Dennis Deer (D-2), Larry Suffredin (D-13) and Tim Schneider (R-15) calling for sexual harassment training for county employees and those who lobby the county. “Each official and employee of Cook County must complete, at least annually, beginning in 2018, a sexual harassment training program conducted by the Bureau of Human Resources. The sexual harassment training program shall be overseen by the Department of Ethics and the Office of the Independent Inspector General,” the resolution reads. It comes in the wake of sweeping sexual harassment reforms locally and nationally, and the same week that public defenders sued the county over sexual harassment by inmates. Female jail guards joined the next day.
- 17-6208 – Comm. John Fritchey’s resolution to put an advisory question on the March 2018 primary ballot to ask county voters: “Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?” His resolution has 12 sponsors.
- 17-6213 – Comm. Richard Boykin’s (D-1) resolution calling for hearings into the issue of water infrastructure and billing in Cook County based on the Chicago Tribune’s investigation, “The Water Drain.” That investigation found the rate hike in water bills falls disproportionately on black communities, “where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities.”
- 17-9982 – Schneider’s resolution for the board to reconsider the current ban on video gambling in unincorporated Cook County. It notes 59 businesses with liquor licenses are currently barred from operating video gaming terminals, and allowing unincorporated areas to catch up to the 89 municipalities that allow it “would level the playing field.”
- 17-9993 – Comms. John Fritchey (D-12) and Bridget Gainer’s (D-10) resolution requesting the county evaluate how many accessible lactation rooms are at county courthouses, clinics, and other buildings. The resolution came in response to an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune about a nursing attorney and mother called for jury duty who said pumping at the courthouse “was basically impossible.” In a press release, Fritchey said lactation rooms at the county building and Daley Center are hard to find and lock from outside, reducing access for mothers without keys. “Employees and members of the public who visit our buildings should not be made to jump through hoops just so they can have some privacy and a clean space to provide milk for their child,” he said.
- 17-6195 – Another change to public testimony rules that seem aimed squarely at concerned citizen George Blakemore, who has raised the ire of multiple commissioners for occasionally speaking off topic, for insulting immigrants, rebuking commissioners for not paying attention, and for raising his voice. The series of changes, proposed by Comm. Suffredin, include certain decorum rules that could get a speaker banned from testimony. Among other rules, it stipulates “The Board President may issue an exclusion from future participation in public comment or testimony periods for up to twenty-eight calendar days.”