"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.