BY DANIEL B. HONIGMAN
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger may have hoped for a quieter return Tuesday, his first County Board meeting since he underwent surgery for prostate cancer.
But in the sweltering fifth floor of the Cook County building, about 200 county prosecutors staged a rally in and outside of the board meeting.
Holding signs that read “12.75 percent,” the prosecutors protested their latest salary offer. The number represented the raise Cook County public defenders received in a cost-of-living adjustment retroactive to 2004.
County prosecutors, on the other hand, were offered a 3 percent raise and a lump-sum payment of $1,000.
En route to the meeting, Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine received thunderous applause from the lawyers, who played hooky — albeit legally — to help sway the commissioners inside.
About two-thirds of the 520 prosecutors staffing Cook County’s felony courtrooms were expected to attend.
Dolton resident Dianne McCollough, one of the assistant state’s attorneys lined up outside Stroger’s office, remained “cautiously optimistic” that a deal could be reached.
“We’re just hoping to achieve parity with the Cook County public defenders,” she said.
The county would need about $8.7 million to pay the prosecutors and has identified several ways to pay for the raises, said 13th District County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston. One option includes the sale of a 300-acre parcel of land at Oak Forest Hospital, he said.
Fifth District County Commissioner Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, pointed out that vigilance and creativity will be needed if and when the money is found.
“Nobody wants to hear the three-letter word: tax,” Sims said, adding the situation is potentially a sticky one. “Money doesn’t fall out of the sky. We’re going to have to find ways to raise revenue.”
While some commissioners raised questions about how the full total would be raised, but 16th District County Commissioner Anthony Peraica, R-Westchester, stressed the importance of reaching an agreement.
“Just because the public defender’s office happens to be under the jurisdiction of (President Stroger) doesn’t mean they should get more money for comparable work than the state’s attorneys who prosecute these cases who are not under the president’s jurisdiction,” he said.
(NOTE: I contributed this to the Times of Northwest Indiana. You can check out the story on their Web site as well.)