Commanders sue sheriff, link layoffs to their union activity

CHICAGO (AP) - Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and other county officials are being sued by laid off jail commanders who allege their firings were in retaliation for union activity.

The 17 commanders allege in the lawsuit filed Thursday that Dart spared his political allies in the sheriff's office while eliminating longtime leaders in public safety roles.

The lawsuit contends the appointed positions are "unnecessary" and financially draining of the limited resources of the Cook County Sheriff's Office.

Responding to the lawsuit, Dart laid the blame for the layoffs at the feet of the Cook County Board and its president, Toni Preckwinkle. Both of whom are also being sued by the commanders.

Spokeswoman Cara Smith says the sheriff's office did the best it could with the "devil's game we had to play with this budget" after being targeted by the county board for cuts.