FOX32 Investigates Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough - KMSP-TV

FOX 32/BGA Investigates Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) -

Just one year after being elected, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough is being accused by a federal court monitor of turning her office into a dumping ground for friends, family and those with political clout.

Fox 32 and the Better Government Association have obtained a report that accuses Yarbrough of thumbing her nose at rules designed to limit political hiring.

Since 1992 the Recorder of Deed's office has been under a federal court order brought by Chicago attorney Michael Shakman.

The so-called ‘Shakman Decree' essentially prohibits hiring, firing and promotions based on politics.

Yet this new report by the federal monitor appointed to oversee hiring in the recorder's office shows a different picture.

Earlier this year FOX 32 and the BGA uncovered an issue with hiring ex-cons, such as Richella Goeloe Jackson. Jackson was convicted of taking part in a staged armored car heist yet still landed a job in the Recorder of Deeds office based on her friendship with recorder, Karen Yarbrough.

Jackson was fired after the story.

Although Jackson was fired, the report shows that the political hiring is getting worse.

Robert Herguth, Chief of Investigations for the BGA, said "The message that we took from that is Karen Yarbrough and her people are blatantly disregarding court orders that are supposed to ensure that hiring, firing and promotions are done fairly and without political considerations."

Federal Court Monitor Cardelle Spangler wrote she "...has grave concerns as to whether the recorder is truly committed to eradicating unlawful political consideration from employment actions within her office."

Spangler said of the eight people hired into non-political jobs since February, she has referred five of the hires to the Cook County Inspector General for investigation.

Spangler also accuses Yarbrough of attempting to obstruct her ability to monitor the recorder's office, and said Yarbrough tried to give a pay raise to one employee without approval.

Spangler said she is "deeply troubled" by the hiring of former Maywood police chief, Tim Curry, as the recorder's director of security and suggests the hiring process may have been rigged to give him the job.

Curry has donated campaign money and performed political work for Yarbrough's husband, the former mayor of Maywood.

The report also criticizes Yarbrough for hiring her niece, Chloe Pedersen, into a six-figure job as the recorder's staff lawyer.

Yarbrough refused to speak on the report.

However, a spokesman commented, saying "we have profound disagreements with the Shakman monitor's report. We are currently exploring our legal options and will be responding accordingly."

Michael Shakman, the attorney behind the landmark court order, told FOX 32 the details in this report describe an unacceptable situation in the recorder's office and he may take steps to correct that situation.

One of those steps could be seeking an order of contempt against Yarbrough.

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