Todd Stroger thinks he’s Oprah Winfrey

Just when I thought I had heard it all, Todd Stroger reaches new levels of hubris.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is “forcing anyone who works under him to sign a confidentiality agreement — promising they won’t disclose anything he deems ‘confidential’ that they ‘learned, disclosed or observed’ while on the job,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Stroger’s edict extends beyond employment with Cook County government:

They must also promise never to disclose information after they leave their job.

Not even Mayor Daley requires such obedience from his employees and those familiar with Gov. Blagojevich’s operations don’t believe he does, either. But Stroger is making those closest to him — department heads, bureau chiefs and anyone working in his PR operation — sign it.

Anyone working in his PR operation? Yes, this is great PR, Todd.

Stroger promised to make Cook County government more transparent. This move certainly muddies the waters.

Oprah Winfrey makes employees sign lifelong confidentiality agreements:

Oprah has successfully intercepted revelations by insisting that everyone who works at Harpo sign an unusual lifelong confidentiality agreement. “You wouldn’t say it’s harsh if you were in the tabloids all the time,” Oprah says in her defense.

I’ll give Oprah her confidentiality agreement because, well, she’s Oprah. While I may tire of her self-indulgent escapades like her road trip with best friend Gayle when she learns how to pump gas and drive in a car by herself — surrounded by cameras, of course — Oprah has done enough philanthropic work for several lifetimes. And she keeps giving.

But Todd Stroger? Todd, you’re no Oprah Winfrey. In fact, Todd, I’d wager that what you’re doing is not even legal, and I would encourage Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to take a good, hard look at this confidentiality agreement for possible violations of the Freedom of Information Act. Madigan speaks about the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act on her Web site:

Both of these laws are intended to foster government accountability and increase the public’s ability to participate fully in government. However, FOIA and OMA are only effective when citizens, the media and public officials understand their rights and obligations under these laws.

Individual governmental bodies cannot be permitted to judge for themselves what the public gets to know. There must be oversight and review on this matter, and this nonsense must stop.


  • averagejoe

    It doesn’t sound as if Todd is preventing outsiders from getting any information they request; rather he’s simply saying that loose lips should be buttoned up. If anything, there would more than likely be issues with whistleblower laws – if the confidentiality agreement is used to keep malfeasance from being made public, that could be an issue. But if he is simply trying to keep strategy, employee movements and other things under wraps until such moves are actually done, then I can’t see any harm in it.

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