Nichols resigns; Will still advise Stroger
November 22, 2006 (WLS) -- The man in who's been in charge of political hiring for cook county, Gerald Nichols, is resigning but he won't be leaving until January. Nichols is the target of a federal investigation and the new president of the cook county board, Todd Stroger, is receiving a lot of criticism over the Nichols controversy.
Todd Stroger won't be sworn in until December 4th but he's already in full damage control mode after a host of prominent politicians including senator Barack Obama accuse him of breaking a promise to immediately get rid of his father's former patronage chief Gerald Nichols. Nichols is resigning but not until the end of the year and he'll be advising Stroger indefinitely even though he's under federal investigation.
"Gerald Nichols will not work for Cook County," that was Todd Stroger's promise five weeks before the election. To get rid of his father's longtime patronage chief, Gerald Nichols, the apparent target of an FBI raid on the county building a week earlier as the feds investigate allegations of illegal hiring and promotions.
But Nichols, who's been on paid administrative leave for two months, came back to work at the county building this week to help Stroger with the transition.
Sparking a firestorm of criticism from, among others, Senator Barack Obama who put his credibility on the line by campaigning for Todd Stroger before the November election.
"I am disappointed. If he is breaking a campaign commitment that he made to the voters and to me," said Senator Barack Obama(D) Illinois.
"He promised to be different. This is a troubling sign," said Commissioner Forest Claypool (D) Chicago.
Stroger responded to the criticism today by announcing that Gerald Nichols is resigning and won't be coming to work any more.
He is a smart man, when he sees a bus coming he gets out of the way," said Todd Stroger (D) Cook County President-Elect.
Stroger, responded to the criticism Wednesday by announcing that Gerald Nichols is resigning and won't be coming to work any more but the resignation's not effective until December 31st and Nichols will be helping Stroger make personnel decisions indefinitely.
"Am I going to ask Gerald how to do things illegally? No. I am going to ask Gerald 'do you know what is happening in this department and is this guy doing the job well?' 'Can you tell me what he should have been doing?' Then I will investigate," Stroger said.
"I think voters and taxpayers after the right to be unhappy. If this is going to be the way he behaves, it is going to be rough times," said Claypool.
Republican Tony Peraica, who lost to Stroger on November 7th, says the Nichols controversy proves conclusively that Stroger's a Democratic machine hack and not a reformer.
But Stroger says it makes no sense to sever all ties with Nichols. When he hasn't been charged with anything and has a wealth of knowledge about the county. They won't be meeting at the county building any more. But they only live a block apart on the South Side.
They are long-time friends and associates. It is hard for Todd to get rid of somebody he has been so close to for so long.
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