Sunday, February 8, 2009

County officials in frenzy over employee who does her job

Let me get this straight. Some Cook County officials are upset because an employee is doing her job?

Betty Hancock Perry is the Contract Compliance Administrator for Cook County. Her job is simple. When a municipality like Chicago, Orland Park or Arlington Heights claims that they awarded a contract to a minority-owned firm, Perry’s department is supposed to check to make sure the firm is what is says it is. Too often, they are not.

But Perry is strapped by a county board where some commissioners spend more time giving themselves funds and staff than they do agencies they supervise like Perry’s. She only has six employees to check out more than 900 firms with “minority contract” awards.

After the Federal government discovered that one of those 900 firms was not what it said it was, the board, reacting to the media headlines as they always do, ordered Perry to stop simply accepting certification claims submitted by the municipalities. Basically in many cases, cities like Chicago simply told the county the firms receiving minority certification were in fact “minority owned.”

At first, Perry said she couldn’t do it. Then later, she did start doing it. So now some members of the County Board want Perry fired. Why? For doing the job the board asked her to do? Apparently, the board members complained, because Perry didn’t inform them.

One of those board members is Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Because apparently, Perry went to suburban Orland Park and challenged the certification of a clout-heavy firm there. In addition to being a county board commissioner, Gorman is also the Orland Township Republican Committeeman. And citing a local company got Gorman all flustered and off her chair. It takes a lot to get Gorman to get up and do much – when she was the Republican Party’s county Chairman, Gorman failed to do her job, Republicans complained, failing to slate candidates for many of the county’s electable offices. And slating candidates is one of the main responsibilities of a county chairman. No wonder the Cook County Republican Party has a pathetic track record.

So what started out as a story about worrying about confirming that companies that benefit from the minority set-aside program are in fact minority-owned, actually is more about the usual politics that concerns our Cook County officials.

-- Ray Hanania

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