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Our View: ‘Joe Jobs’ to meet his match

Updated: April 21, 2013 6:41AM



We’ll call your bet and raise you.

That’s the message the Cook County Ethics Board has sent to county Assessor Joseph Berrios in its effort to persuade Berrios to remove three of his relatives — a son, daughter and sister — from his payroll and pay $10,000 in fines for violating the county ethics policy. That policy prohibits elected officials from hiring family members.

Berrios, who’s also the county Democratic chairman, has told the ethics board to get lost. He conveniently contends that the hiring ban applies only to county commissioners, not other elected officials — a view apparently not shared by any other top official, including county board President Toni Preckwinkle.

To its credit, the ethics board is not giving up in this very public feud and has impressively raised the stakes — hiring former federal prosecutor David Hoffman as a special state’s attorney to take Berrios to court over his blatant nepotism.

Hoffman, a former inspector general for the city of Chicago, headed the recent inquiry that revealed a corrupt scheme involving the city’s red-light camera contract. As a government watchdog, he’s a cross between an abused pit bull and a rabid Doberman pinscher. Berrios will not be able to ignore him.

Regular readers of this space know that we’ve been highly critical of Berrios, nicknaming him “Joe Jobs” for using his political clout to find government work for his relatives. A Sun-Times investigation last fall found 13 of his family members on state or county payrolls and two more who were retired and getting public pensions.

Berrios is the kind of shameless, old-time pol that for decades gave Cook County government a well-earned reputation as a swamp of graft and greed. That image persists, but reform is in the air — as evidenced by enforcing an ethics policy, something that would be unheard of not so long ago.

Berrios’ arrogant refusal to dismiss his family members has cost county taxpayers nearly $25,000 so far in legal costs. That’ll rise with Hoffman’s arrival, but the ethics board cannot allow Berrios to avoid its order. “Joe Jobs” isn’t going to win this fight, and that’s a good thing.



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