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DuPage County sheriff agrees to job cuts

DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba

DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba

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Updated: December 24, 2012 6:53AM

DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba knew something had to give. It turned out that something was a program that keeps an eye on offenders while they’re working. The impact on the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, however, should be minimal.

The county’s longtime top cop spoke to the DuPage County Judicial and Public Safety Committee Tuesday, acknowledging that he will live with a proposed 2013 budget distinguished by seven eliminated jobs, all of them in his department.

“I have been meeting with the State’s Attorney, Chief Judge and many of you, including the board chairman, concluding that SWAP should not be eliminated ... I appear here today to agree that my full-time head count be reduced by seven, but I am asking for flexibility in implementing those reductions,” Zaruba said.

Rather than lay off seven deputies, Zaruba will plan to let two officers and five office staff members leave by attrition and then not replace them, Finance Committee Chairman Paul Fichtner said. About 60 employees leave the department of their own volition each year, according to County Board Chairman Dan Cronin.

The $432 million county spending plan, under discussion for the past several weeks, is slated for adoption at the County Board’s meeting Tuesday morning. Four deputies were among the most recent to appear before the board to oppose the cuts, one of them speaking for the group last week.

Deputy Joyce Pfeifer, who will mark 20 years with the department next year, suggested that cuts would be better made elsewhere.

“There was a time when nine board members, like every other comparable county, were enough to get the job done. Why is it that we now need 19 board members to get the same job done?” said Pfeifer, who also took the board to task for paying the county chief of staff a $181,000 annual salary and the chief financial officer $163,000.

Cronin said he and Zaruba discussed the cuts, agreeing the SWAP program plan made sense. He said he respects the sheriff’s authority.

“He is the expert on public safety,” Cronin said Tuesday. “My responsibility in this county and this form of government is the budget.”

The SWAP program will make do without the two deputies, hanging on to the remaining officers who oversee people convicted, mostly of crimes involving drugs, while they work.

“We have found that the presence of the law enforcement officer really makes a difference in this program,” Cronin said. “That conveys the message to these individuals, and we think that that’s a big part of why we aren’t seeing the rate of recidivism in this type of crime.”

The budget put up for board vote next week will not deviate from the plan Cronin proposed more than two months ago. Fichtner said he has heard no opposition from the rest of the board.

“As finance chairman, I’m looking forward to a very quiet vote,” he said.

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