In 1969, a federal
civil lawsuit, Michael L. Shakman, et al. v. Democratic Organization
of Cook County, et al., Case No. 69 C 2145, was filed by a group
of plaintiffs against various defendants, including Cook County. In 1972,
several defendants, including Cook County, entered into a Consent Decree
with the Plaintiffs to resolve some of the claims made in the lawsuit.
The 1972 Consent Decree specifically prohibited the County from “conditioning,
basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting any term or aspect of governmental
employment with respect to one who is at the time already a governmental
employee, upon or because of any political reason or factor.” A
subsequent Consent Decree was entered in 1994 that extended these prohibitions
to include Cook County's hiring practices, with certain exclusions. These
agreements have collectively come to be known as the Shakman Decrees.
The Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has retained
jurisdiction over the case. The Court's powers include the power to enforce
the Consent Decrees.
On August 28, 2006, the Plaintiffs in the Shakman lawsuit filed an Application to Hold Cook County and Certain Individuals in Civil Contempt for Violations of the Consent Decrees. Their motion was based, in part, on several recent Chicago Sun-Times articles, alleging various violations of the Shakman Decrees. One article accused a County official who was serving as a patronage chief of ordering department heads to hire individuals based on political considerations. The article also accused the personnel director of the County Highway Department and a County employee and 8th ward political worker of participating in illegal patronage hiring practices. Another Sun-Times article accused employees of a Cook County Commissioner of keeping a “Clout List” to be used for illegal employment practices.
On October 6, 2006, the County filed a response to the Plaintiffs’ allegations of contempt. The County requested that the Plaintiffs’ petition be denied on several legal grounds. The Court did not issue a ruling on the Plaintiffs’ contempt petition or make a determination of whether the Plaintiffs’ allegations contained in their petition were true or false because the parties reached a settlement of the matter.
Arising out of the settlement on November 29, 2006, Judge Wayne R. Andersen, the federal district court judge presently assigned to the Shakman civil lawsuit, appointed Julia M. Nowicki as the Court's Compliance Administrator in an effort to ensure future compliance with the Shakman Decrees by Cook County. As part of its appointment order, the Court directed the Compliance Administrator, along with her appointed legal counsel, to study Cook County’s existing employment practices, policies and procedures for nonpolitical hiring, promotion, transfer, discipline and discharge. Further, the Court ordered the Compliance Administrator to recommend mechanisms for ensuring that the County's employment actions are in compliance with existing court orders. The Compliance Administrator was further ordered to review the County’s current hiring practices and prepare a proposal for a new hiring plan. The Initial Report of the Compliance Administrator, submitted January 3, 2007, details the Compliance Administrator’s preliminary findings and recommendations.
County Shakman Compliance Administrator - countyshakman.com
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