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updated: 10/19/2010 4:18 PM

Cook Co. Board swats aside Peraica reforms as 'political ploy'

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In its last meeting before the Nov. 2 general election, the Cook County Board rejected two reforms proposed by Riverside Republican Commissioner Tony Peraica as political ploys and 11th-hour electioneering.

Peraica proposed a ban on elected county officials lobbying other government elected officials outside of their regular duties, a measure aimed specifically at Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. That was rejected overwhelmingly, while another proposal to halt the county commissioners' $900-a-month contingency funds failed in a close vote to even make it to committee.

Peraica defended the ban on lobbying as an attack on a "quid pro quo culture and "a glaring conflict of interest, as Berrios has lobbied House Speaker Michael Madigan, the state Democratic chairman, on behalf of video-gambling interests, while Madigan's law firm argues assessment appeals before Berrios on the Board of Review. Peraica called that "trading favors back and forth.

Yet, Evanston Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the proposal used ethics as "a political football ... intended to get political enemies.

In a true case of strange political bedfellows, Chicago Democratic Commissioner William Beavers sided with Peraica. Without mentioning Berrios by name, Beavers said, "He ought to mind his own business and leave other peoples' business alone.

Chicago Democratic Commissioner Earlean Collins saluted Beavers' honesty, but said the proposed ethics ordinance was "totally subjective and "unenforceable, designed to "make hay politically.

Chicago Democratic Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno, a frequent Peraica nemesis, called it "a sham, and even Chicago Democratic Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who is running against Berrios as an independent in the assessor's race, refused to support it, saying it would muddle a recently passed ethics law that undercut Berrios' funding from tax-appeal lawyers.

"This board has become something we should be embarrassed about, concluded Chicago Democratic Commissioner Deborah Sims.

Peraica's Democratic opponent in the 16th District, McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, issued a statement saying: "I find it highly disingenuous that Commissioner Peraica is proposing an ethics ordinance banning elected officials from lobbying the county two weeks before the election all while he blatantly lobbies the county Zoning Board on behalf of his law clients.

In the end, it failed 14-2, with only Peraica and Beavers in favor.

Moreno attacked Peraica's proposal to end the more than $10,000 a year commissioners get in their contingency funds as "a total waste of time adding, "This is a political ploy, two weeks before the election, and it should be shot down.

A motion to send the measure to committee failed by a 7-6 vote.