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Cook County's JFK? Dem Party Chairman Joe Berrios Takes Care of Family

If the Irish can stack government with family, the Puerto Rican can, too, says Berrios, who has several family members on his assessor's staff and a host of others on county, school and state payrolls.

"In government," says Joe Berrios, Cook County Democratic Party chairman, "people help people."

So why shouldn't he help the people named Berrios with government jobs?

Berrios believes he's just like President John F. Kennedy — minus the Irish, of course — and entirely justified in putting relatives on the government payroll.

The various Berriosi pull in more than $1 million in salary and pension benefits, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

His family members are eminently qualified to hold the various positions he's hired or promoted them into. And, really, you shouldn't question this. As he told the Sun-Times Wednesday:

“Look at a great president that we had, President Kennedy. Who’d he appoint attorney general? You know? Same thing. ... “You’re saying Bobby Kennedy wasn’t fit for the [U.S. attorney general’s] job? He appointed his brother,” Berrios continued, referring to JFK. “And in government, people help many people. This is part of the process.”

Thirteen family members are on the Cook County, city schools or state payroll, among them:

  • Carmen Berrios, his sister, makes $108,00 a year in the assessor's office
  • Joey Berrios, his son, makes $72,444 in the assessor's office
  • Vanessa Berrios, his daughter makes $72,444 in the assessor's office

Criticizing his nepotism, the Cook County Board of Ethics levied a $10,000 fine in June and told him he should fire members of the Berrios clan on his assessor's office staff. 

The board report concluded: “Maintaining the public trust and confidence of those that government serves, is a key component of being a fiduciary. The hiring and or employing of family members as County employees undermines this public trust. ... Rather than promote an open and transparent governmental hiring process, this conduct promotes the opposite, a closed and opaque process.”

Berrios, in turn, said the county's ethics rules "don't apply" to him and he's ignored the fine.

After reporter Dan Mihalopoulos detailed the extent of his all-in-the-family approach to government, Berrios replied with an "Ubi Est Mea" defense and a reference to the "good government" legacy of the Chicago Irish:

“Family members working in government isn’t new in Chicago or any other large city in the United States. You are picking on the Puerto Rican kid from Cabrini-Green who’s sitting alone at the lunch table while all the Irish kids sit together, laughing and grateful he’s there.”

King Berrios in Camelot

In a Berrios Camelot, you can't let everyone have a shot at winning the Democratic Party's nomination for a seat on Congress, either. 

Following Jesse Jackson Jr.'s pathetic tumble from public life, resulting in his resignation from Congress and a special election for the 2nd District Congressional seat, Berrios has decreed that too many candidates were stepping forward to seek the seat.

To this point, among Democrats, Debbie Halvorson, Napoleon Harris, Mel Reynolds, Toi Hutchinson and Anthony Beale have emerged as candidates, and Robin Kelly, David Miller, Sam Adam Jr. and a few others are seriously considering whether to get into the race.

Berrios fears a "free for all" in which voters could, gasp, freely vote for anybody they might like, regardless of whether the candidates have the money or name recognition needed to make a "serious run" for the office.

So he's reached out to ward and township party leaders to slate an approved Democrat for the seat. As the district map is drawn, through the South Side and the south suburbs, it's unlikely a Republican could prevail in a head-to-head matchup.

Apparently lacking someone named Berrios to slot into the 2nd District, a selection committee has been chosen.

This post is published throughout the Patch network in Cook County.

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Scot December 02, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Its exactly why the county is broke. The positions his kids have were not positions that needed to be filled. At the time he hired his family members, there was a hiring freeze. Why does his explanation have to have race involved ? The Irish do it why cant a Puerto Rican?
Scot December 02, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I think Blago made refferances in the same manner to the Illinois assembly by saying he didnt do anything other politicians wouldnt do. HE GONE !
Danny Boy December 04, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Another fiefdom being built on the taxpayers back by another DEM. Whats new? I am just asking BUT how many fiefdoms does this make in Chicago/cook county govt? Is anyone watching out for the tax payer? Its gimme mine while the getting is good. Sounds like another FREE STUFF program for the protected few with connections. Aren't there many in state govt, Madigan comes to mind that make MILLIONS to lower property taxes in Chicago for companies that mean the peons have to pay MORE to make up for the FREE STUFF politicians arrange for. If companies have to publish how much they pay in taxes I hope this means we will find out who got special DISCOUNTS on property taxes so the public knows which pols to blame for their increase in property taxes.
Braze December 09, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Berrios is a Moran, period! His has a crooked way in him that he just thinks that whatever election he gets his foot in is his to bring all the family in on the payroll. He is a crook and should be booted out on the first questionable law he looks to break. Take Madigan with him, and it is time to move out of this State for good.
JOE IN LITH December 10, 2012 at 05:11 AM
There is absolutely too many opportunities to expound on the nepotism detailed here, so I'll ask just one question: $60,894 for a freaking toll collector??? That's over $30/hr. (The Tollway Authority is a whole separate subject of corruption). That job is a cashier job for crying out loud! Does anyone know of any cashier anywhere that makes half that amount. A cashier at McDonald's has a tougher job. And they won't have a pension almost equal to their salary when they retire. They don't have health insurance, sick days, paid holidays or any of the other benefits government employees have. What the hell is wrong with our government leaders to allow these things to go on? It is beyond words.

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