The Better Government Association and the Chicago News Cooperative recently reported Earlean Collins was one of four Cook County commissioners who refused to take any or all of the 10 requested furlough days in 2011, according to a preliminary report obtained from the county comptroller’s office.
The unpaid days were needed to cut about $25 million from the fiscal year 2011 budget, in an attempt to save more than 500 jobs. While thousands of county employees were required to take the furlough days, it was optional for elected officials like Commissioner Collins.
AustinTalks reported in September and November that Collins had continued to say at county board meetings no one could force her to take off the time she and 16 other commissioners unanimously agreed to when they passed the budget last February.
“I’m going to help the people,” Collins told reporters Patrick Rehkamp and Adrienne Lu when they asked why she hadn’t volunteered her time like the other commissioners.
“We buy coats and food for women who are getting out of prison with my money. I don’t have time to contribute to [the] county.”
“I don’t apologize for not taking any furlough days, and I’m not going to take any to please anybody,” Collins told reporters.
But some question Collins’ decision.
“Commissioner. It is tax money. It doesn’t belong to you. Never did,” he wrote.
“Why are you haphazardly buying coats and food for women coming out of prison? Having 17 different commissioners with pots of money they spend on pet projects, even if worthy, is the definition of waste posing as paternalism.”
“There are already effective government programs which provide food to people in dire straits. There are charities that collect coats. And, yes, surely there are good people in need who struggle,” Haley wrote.
According to Rehkamp and Lu, because the furlough days have proved so difficult to enforce, the union was unable to agree during recent budget negotiations, and now 775 county employees could be laid off.