At a time when more than 75,000 mortgage foreclosures are pending in Cook County, commissioners are asking for more scrutiny of a mediation program designed to help homeowners navigate the foreclosure process.
Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ aides appeared Tuesday before the County Board to ask for $3.5 million to continue the mediation program through next summer.
But Commissioner Bridget Gainer, asked that Evans’ office first provide a report detailing how the program’s success will be measured so that the board can evaluate its performance.
“Cook County has more foreclosures than any other city or county in the nation,” Gainer said. “Because the problem is so dire and has such a huge impact on our property tax system and communities, we need to be sure that every dollar we spend is an effective one.”
The county began the mediation program in April 2010 with $3.5 million to provide free legal assistance to homeowners and to encourage homeowners and lenders to come to mutually acceptable agreements on delinquent mortgages already in the foreclosure process.
The County Board approved another $3 million through Nov. 30 for the program, which also includes community outreach visits, a helpline, counseling workshops and individual counseling appointments.
Gainer said there is no evidence of wrongdoing or mismanagement, but argued it’s the board’s job to ensure that millions in taxpayer money is being spent prudently.
“As much as it is tempting to assume people are doing the right thing, our job as the board is to make sure we’re on top of these things,” she said.
The program, which was set to expire July 15, was extended through the end of the month. Evans’ office will submit the performance standards commissioners requested in the next couple of weeks, and they’re scheduled to vote on funding July 27.
“I don’t think there’s resistance. I think Commissioner Gainer wants to have a good program,” said Moshe Jacobius, presiding judge of the circuit court's Chancery Division. “We felt it should be passed today, but we have no problem with the commissioners studying it. We think it’s a good program.”
According to a report commissioners received in May, the program helped save 216 delinquent homeowners from losing their properties to lenders.
Also at the meeting, county Highway Department Superintendent Rupert Graham Jr., submitted his resignation, effective Aug. 1. He was appointed to a six-year term by former Board President Todd Stroger. Graham made $147,436 a year and his deal was set to expire in 2013.
New Board President Toni Preckwinkle declined to say whether she had asked for Graham’s resignation. Graham told the Tribune he resigned for “personal reasons.” He said he doesn’t have another job lined up.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun