For obvious reasons, Todd Stroger is an easy target for critics of patronage hiring and public waste. But it’s not like he’s the only elected official who’s hired political allies and relatives for jobs that don’t always add up as necessary to outside observers.
Among the 220 employees on the staff of Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore is his son, Eric, listed in payroll records as an administrative assistant paid about $53,000 a year. But according to other records and a spokesman for the recorder’s office, Eric Moore spends his days transporting documents and computer equipment from the county building to the recorder’s five suburban branches.
Spokesman Askia Abdullah says the branch offices exist as a convenience for suburban residents who need to submit property records to the county system but don’t want to have to travel all the way to the Loop. But then the recorder’s staff has to transport them all downtown because the suburban branches don’t have the capability of entering them into the central database.
That’s where Eric Moore’s job comes in: he drives to the suburbs to pick up documents, along with computer equipment in need of repair, and then takes it all to the main office downtown in the county building.
“He’ll pick the documents up, he’ll pick the equipment up, whatever he needs to do,” Abdullah said in an interview.
However, records aren’t clear about what he does with all of his time on the clock. Abdullah said he spends all of his work days making pickups and deliveries. But during the last part of 2006 and the first half of 2007, according to logs obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Eric Moore made runs to Bridgeview and Markham on Mondays and to Rolling Meadows and Skokie on Wednesdays. Trips to the Maywood branch were not listed on the logs. Then starting last July, he made multiple trips each week; they rose in frequency until they were often daily by late last fall and early this year (when his father was engaged in a primary election battle against Ed Smith, alderman of the 28th Ward).
Abdullah said he doesn’t know if Eric Moore is the most qualified person for the job. “I don’t make personnel decisions,” he said. “Not only that, but I don’t know the requirements for that position. But there haven’t been any complaints about his work that I know of.”
Last May, though, Eric Moore was named in a federal lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Shakman and other independent political activists on behalf of several former employees of the recorder’s office who claim they were illegally terminated to protect the jobs of patronage workers. Listing Eric Moore as an example of wasteful patronage, the suit charged that “His main activity is driving the van to take work out to the satellites once a week. He usually brings another employee with him for company and they make certain not to return to the office the same day. When in the office he does document scanning (clerk’s work),” which usually warrants a lower pay rate. Eugene Moore has denied the patronage and illegal firing charges, and the suit is still in court.
Still, while Eric Moore logs his miles and trips, his father also drives a taxpayer-funded car that uses taxpayer-funded gas, but the elder Moore doesn’t keep track of what exactly he uses it for. “Historically, the Recorder’s office did not have a policy that required an accounting of mileage for vehicle use,” Abdullah wrote in response to the FOIA request for mileage and trip logs. “A policy for accounting for vehicle mileage was established in October 2006. However, the Recorder’s vehicle is exempt from the policy.”
He elaborated in our interview. “The recorder’s in and out of the office all the time. Do you really want him to be responsible for keeping a log? To maintain a log would be cumbersome for a chief executive,” he said. “I don’t think the public expects a chief executive–the president, the mayor, the governor–I don’t think the public expects them to do that.”
Taxpayers pick up the tab for the recorder to drive himself to and from work. Abdullah said it would be ridiculous for Moore to, say, drive his county car to business in the suburbs and then drive it all the way back downtown to drop it off before heading home for the night. “His schedule is not nine to five,” Abdullah said. “And it’s not like he’s driving it to Michigan to visit his family or anything. Look, we are a revenue-generating office. It’s not like we’re at the trough. We bring something to the table.”