Cook Commissioners Refuse to Take Furlough Days?

-By Warner Todd Huston

News today had it that two Cook County Commissioners have refused to take the agreed upon furlough days as required by the 2011 budget, days meant to save the county money. Both William Beavers and Earlene Collins have both refused to take the 10 days off.

Collins claimed on Chicago’s WLS AM 89 radio that she shouldn’t have to suffer the indignities of the cut in salary that the days off would mean. She says her base pay has never risen since she was first elected to office and that she has already cut out much of her office allowances and other staffing funds so she should not have to take a cut in pay, too.

In fact, claims Collins, she’s already made cuts that amount to more than the some $9,000 that her 10 day furlough would add up to.

Then Collins made an interesting accusation that has not appeared in the media’s coverage of the story. Collins said that there are others that are refusing to take the furlough. She said that the others that are refusing the days off are not being singled out by County Board President Teri Preckwinkle because “they are on her team.”

As to Board President Preckwinkle, she told reporters, “I haven’t asked any one commissioner to do something that I haven’t done myself.”

Most of the 23,000 employees were asked to take the ten days without pay: five furlough days and five government shut-down days. The aim was to save $29 million by the end of the fiscal year, Nov. 30. By the end of August, $16.2 million savings had been achieved, Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, said after the meeting.

“What kind of message do we send to the 23,000-plus employees that everybody has to take cuts and furlough days except the county commissioners and their staffs,” Commissioner Tim Schneider, a northwest suburban Republican, said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I think it’s the wrong message to send. I think we have to have shared sacrifice, we have to lead by example,” he said, noting that he and his staff are taking the unpaid time off.

William Beavers said that he refused the cut because it was “illegal.” He claimed the cuts were improper because the state constitution says that public officials cannot have salaries boosted or docked.

Now, I’m not sure what section of the constitution that Beavers is referring to, but in Section 9 of article VII it does say that no salary of an elected official can be changed during the term in which the change is made. So if a salary is changed it cannot take effect until after the next term begins.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
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Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

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