Cook County watch­dog plan­ning exit af­ter help­ing find suc­ces­sor: ‘It’s good gov­ern­ment’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY RACHEL HIN­TON, PO­LIT­I­CAL RE­PORTER rhin­ton@sun­ | @rrhin­ton

Cook County’s top watch­dog plans to bow out in 2022 af­ter 14 years try­ing to sniff out cor­rup­tion, mis­con­duct and other wrong­do­ing by gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees.

The move is laid out in a pro­posed amend­ment to a county or­di­nance gov­ern­ing how to choose a suc­ces­sor to Cook County In­de­pen­dent In­spec­tor Gen­eral Pa­trick Blan­chard.

Blan­chard’s cur­rent six-year term ends in Oc­to­ber, but he’ll re­turn for a spe­cial two-year term to com­plete his 30 years of to­tal em­ploy­ment by the county and to as­sist of­fi­cials as they look for a re­place­ment. That process could take eight months to a year.

Blan­chard’s exit plan was first re­ported by Crain’s.

Blan­chard said he’s not be­ing forced out of the po­si­tion.

“It sim­ply was de­signed to cap­ture the re­al­ity that I’m ap­proach­ing 30 years of ser­vice, which is the time when peo­ple can re­tire if they want . ... So it’s de­signed to cap­ture that no­tion and also what will un­doubt­edly be a long pe­riod of time to al­low the search and reap­point­ment process to take place, and it’s a very good thing,” Blan­chard said. “It’s good gov­ern­ment.”

Blan­chard is cur­rently in his sec­ond six-year term as in­spec­tor gen­eral. Be­fore tak­ing on the watch­dog post, he spent about 15 years as an as­sis­tant Cook County state’s at­tor­ney.

Dur­ing his time as in­spec­tor gen­eral, Blan­chard devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for sharp el­bows with pols and pay­rollers alike.

In a July re­port, Blan­chard’s of­fice sug­gested the Cook County Board of Re­view had a hir­ing process for em­ploy­ees that put clout be­fore qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Blan­chard con­cluded the board, which han­dles ap­peals of prop­erty as­sess­ments, has no for­mal hir­ing process, hired peo­ple “de­spite in­com­plete ap­pli­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als and lack of for­mal process,” and uses an ap­pli­ca­tion form that con­tains the ques­tion “‘who rec­om­mended you to us?’”

Last year, Blan­chard butted heads with Com­mis­sioner Luis Ar­royo Jr. over al­le­ga­tions that the North­west Side Demo­crat stepped in when his po­lit­i­cal friend Luis Pena was given a $250 park­ing ticket in 2018. Ar­royo said he weighed in to make sure Lati­nos were be­ing treated fairly.

Af­ter that in­ci­dent, Ar­royo Jr. said he and other mem­bers of the County Board were con­cerned about Blan­chard’s fit­ness for the po­si­tion — but none of the 11 com­mis­sion­ers polled by the Chicago Sun-Times at the time were will­ing to pub­licly share such reser­va­tions.

In a state­ment, a spokesman for Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle said Blan­chard re­quested the two-year ap­point­ment and it will “en­sure con­ti­nu­ity in op­er­a­tions dur­ing this process.”

The mat­ter will come be­fore the Leg­is­la­tion and In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee of the Cook County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Wed­nes­day and then will likely go be­fore the full board of com­mis­sion­ers Thurs­day.

Cook County In­de­pen­dent In­spec­tor Gen­eral Pa­trick Blan­chard

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