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Preckwinkle Defends Raises For Security Detail

Updated 10/03/11 - 4:07 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County Board President Toni Prekwinkle on Monday rejected charges she's improperly boosted salaries for her bodyguards, while other county workers are losing jobs and taking pay cuts.

As WBBM Newsradio's John Cody reports, all three members of Preckwinkle's security detail have been given raises this year, at a time when Preckwinkle is predicting more layoffs next year to balance the budget and county workers are already taking several unpaid furlough days this year.

County worker W. E. Morrow Jr. has taken seven furlough days this year. That's more than $200 for every day he was forced to work without pay.

"You got bills coming up and you can't pay that bill, because they take money out your check. Nothing you can do about it," Morrow told CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker.

Morrow is one of 23,000 Cook County employees, at facilities like the county courthouses and hospitals, who are losing ten pay days this year to help the county deal with a $315 million budget deficit. But while he and others take a pay cut, the three bodyguards who protect Preckwinkle are getting raises.

Preckwinkle said she has a relatively modest security detail compared to other prominent elected officials and that her security officers don't get overtime, even though they often work 12 hour days, as does she.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's John Cody reports


Prekwinkle said it's only fair to her security detail.

"The initial idea was that we were going to have four people on this detail – we have three. We don't pay anybody overtime and we've expected them to work longer hours," Preckwinkle said. "So the compensation is based on the fact that we have fewer people and we're requiring them to work more."

The highest paid guard saw his salary jump from roughly $90,000 to $100,000. The other two went from some $75,000 to $82,000 and $49,000 to $59.000.

"They are getting raises and I'm not getting no extra money," Morrow said.

Prekwinkle's security detail is the same size as the one now provided former Mayor Richard Daley and costs less than the one that Preckwinkle's predecessor, Todd Stroger, used.

"I trust her," said county employee Bruce Sutchar. "I think she's doing the best she can."

Preckwinkle also pointed out that she's not asking county employees to do anything she hasn't done by taking unpaid furlough days.

"When I came on board, I took a ten percent pay cut because that's what I promised to do when I was on the campaign trail and I also have taken the furlough and shut down days," she said.

Preckwinkle said the sheriff's officers assigned to her security detail deserve the raises.

Salaries for Preckwinkle's three-member security team should run about $260,000 a year, she said. Stroger's larger detail cost the county $310,000 a year.

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