Chicago

Cook County ethics board sues elected official for refusing to fire her cousin, in defiance of nepotism ban – Chicago Tribune

The feud between Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt and the Board of Ethics has escalated to the courts after Wendt continued to defy a rule towards nepotism by refusing to fire her cousin.

The county’s ethics board filed the lawsuit Tuesday naming Wendt and her first cousin — and prime staffer — Todd Thielmann as defendants. The criticism calls for a choose to uphold the county’s ethics code, which forbids Wendt from using Thielmann, and for Wendt to fire him and to pay the $2,000 high quality the board imposed when it initially discovered she violated the nepotism ban.

The lawsuit additionally calls for Thielmann reimburse the county for all of the compensation he earned working beneath Wendt, who most just lately gave him a $150,000 wage, in accordance to the general public information.

“Commissioner Wendt has flagrantly violated the Cook County Ethics Ordinance by hiring her first cousin into a senior position in her office, and she has steadfastly refused to comply with the order requiring her to correct that violation,” Thomas Szromba, chair of the Board of Ethics, wrote in an announcement. “Orders from the Board of Ethics cannot simply be ignored.”

Neither Wendt nor Thielmann responded to requests for remark for this story, however Wendt has beforehand stated the outcry over her cousin’s hiring is “an attempt to silence me” as a result of she “did not hire who was sent to me.” Thielmann has informed the Tribune he “will continue to manage Commissioner Wendts staff and do my job until she fires me.”

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In her April attraction of the ethics board’s findings, Wendt tried to make the case that the countywide ethics ordinance doesn’t apply to her as a result of the Board of Review has a separate coverage. The ethics board stated Wendt’s argument was “meritless” as a result of the county’s ethics ordinance applies to all its authorities staff and supersedes any guidelines by particular person businesses such because the Board of Review.

At the time of Thielmann’s hiring, the countywide code banned the hiring of first cousins amongst different kin, whereas the Board of Review’s guidelines didn’t embody first cousins. The different two Board of Review commissioners have since amended their coverage following a public flap over Thielmann’s employment.

Wendt, a Democrat from Palos Heights who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2020, is working for reelection to the property tax appeals board and faces Chicago Ald. George Cardenas, twelfth, in the June 28 Democratic major. Thielmann was employed in December 2020, instantly after his cousin took office, public information present.

Wendt was additionally one of the protection attorneys for Jason Van Dyke, the previous Chicago officer convicted of homicide in the taking pictures of Laquan McDonald.

In his March ruling, Szromba wrote that Wendt each violated a county ban on hiring kin and failed to uphold her “fiduciary duty” to the county as a result of she was nonetheless using her cousin regardless of being given a number of notices in regards to the nepotism ban.

In addition to the ethics board, the Cook County Office of the Independent Inspector General additionally investigated Thielmann’s hiring. The county watchdog discovered that Wendt violated the ethics ordinance and may take away her cousin from his put up, in accordance to a January report. The inspector basic’s office didn’t publicly title Wendt, however the ethics board ruling confirmed she was the topic of the watchdog’s inquiry.

Wendt’s major opponent rapidly weighed in Wednesday morning with an announcement saying she acted “shamelessly.”

”I belief the folks of Cook County won’t re-elect Tammy Wendt on June twenty eighth due to her incompetence and flagrant disregard of ethics,” Cardenas wrote.

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