Preckwinkle seeks to loosen Cook County purchasing rules

Clout Street

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is seeking greater control over how the county buys goods and services.

At a news conference today, Preckwinkle said the ordinance she's proposing will "streamline" government by speeding up the approval of contracts and payments to vendors. The County Board passed the ordinance out of a committee today.

Preckwinkle wants to take away a portion of the County Board's influence over the awarding of contracts. Currently, board approval is needed throughout the process, such as permission to advertise and open bids. Under Preckwinkle's proposal, board approval would only take place at the end of the process -- the actual selection of the vendor and execution of the contract, Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle also wants to raise the threshold of contract amounts that need board approval from $25,000 for professional and managerial services and $100,000 for supplies, materials and equipment to $150,000 for all contracts. This move, Preckwinkle said, would allow her staff to "focus on major contracts."

"We're trying to make government across the board more efficient," she said. Her proposal is being backed by county Inspector General Patrick Blanchard.

Preckwinkle's push takes place against the backdrop of her predecessor, Todd Stroger. His former  former deputy chief of staff, Carla Oglesby, was charged with felony theft, money laundering and official misconduct in a contracting scandal. The contracts Oglesby is alleged to have gotten involved with were for $24,900 --- just under the $25,000 threshhold that brings commissioners into the review process.

Preckwinkle, who took office in December, said her proposal would make the contract process more transparent because each step would be put online for the public to see.

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