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Name And Title: Mara S. Georges, corporation counsel Age: 43 Big City: Chicago, the largest city in the Midwest and the third-largest in the United States, is perched on Lake Michigan and is renowned for its lakefront parks and distinctive architecture. It is home, for example, to 1,730-foot-high Sears Tower, which since 1973 has been the country’s tallest building. Mayor Richard M. Daley, a former state’s attorney for Cook County and the son of the legendary late Mayor Richard J. Daley, has held his post since 1989. While the city’s population declined slightly between April 2000 and July 2006 to about 2.83 million residents, people have been streaming into the city’s center in recent years, kicking off a downtown building boom. City government employed 36,409 people full time as of the end of July; counting part-time workers, the total was close to 40,000. The city’s budget was $5.7 billion this year and its estimated budget for next year is about the same. In April, Chicago beat out Los Angeles to become the U.S. candidate to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Now the effort needs to survive the international competition to decide the site for the games. Daily Duties: Getting bored isn’t something that Georges has to worry about in her job as corporation counsel, the top lawyer for the city. Her legal duties mirror the city’s concerns � helping with the Olympics bid, defending litigation against the police department, even helping to raise revenue. “I love it,” Georges said. “My counterparts at law firms or even in-house at corporations kind of talk about the routine nature of their jobs, the fact that things get mundane, and that is not something I’ve ever experienced in this job.” Georges is responsible for running the city’s Department of Law and provides legal advice to the mayor, city council, city commissions and city agencies. Drafting ordinances and executive orders also is part of her work. “It’s really a job where you focus on those issues that are most pressing to the administration at any given time,” she said. Earlier this year, Georges helped craft the Olympic bid, making sure that legal agreements were in place for event sites and that plans were in place for bringing visitors through U.S. Customs, among other duties. She’s continually searching for novel ways to raise city funds by leveraging the city’s assets. In 2004, Chicago sold a 99-year lease on the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway Bridge toll road, which links two major highways in the region, to an Australian-Spanish consortium. The deal netted $1.3 billion for the city’s coffers. Ghost Of The Machine: During the past year, Georges’ department negotiated a settlement of litigation over allegations of corrupt hiring practices linked to Chicago’s notorious machine politics. The case had dragged on for more than 40 years. Under the settlement, the city will create a $12 million fund to compensate employees and job applicants who were passed over because of political considerations. Federal court monitoring of the city’s hiring tentatively is scheduled to end in 2009. A separate corruption probe by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has led to the indictment of a number of city and state officials in recent years. Defending the city’s police force is an ongoing duty. At the moment, the city faces more than 500 federal lawsuits, and additional state court actions, mainly alleging the use of excessive force by officers against citizens. The city paid $26 million in police-related settlements last year, according to Georges’ office. Lately, Georges has been working with the mayor to revamp the office that investigates citizen complaints against police officers. Critics argue that their plan does not go far enough in insulating the investigatory unit from police department influence. Legal Team And Outside Counsel: The Department of Law comprises 14 divisions, including finance, real estate, torts, employment, and defense litigation for individuals (mainly police officers). The department employs 300 lawyers and 250 paralegals and administrative staff. The work force sometimes is stretched thinly in some areas and turns to a roster of 100 outside firms, Georges said. The firms that got the most work from the city last year tended to be local Chicago outfits, including Winston & Strawn, which earned $1.7 million for city work. Other Chicago firms on the city’s payroll include Shefsky & Froelich; Pugh, Jones, Johnson & Quandt; and Rock Fusco. James G. Sotos & Associates in suburban Itasca, Ill., also handled some of the city’s work. Last year, the department spent about $10 million on outside firms. Georges is open to other applicants. She said that she is glad to meet with any outside firm that wants to work for the city, to discuss its areas of expertise and check references; if there’s a match with work the city needs done, she’ll sign a contract. The only caveat is that the city will not pay more than $295 an hour for legal services. “We always give everybody a chance, and unless they screw up we’re going to continue to use them,” Georges said. Route To Present Position: Georges was a litigation partner at the local firm then known as Rock, Fusco, Reynolds, Crowe & Garvey before joining the city’s legal department. She wasn’t the first woman to hold the corporation counsel position, but believes she was the youngest to take the job (as a 36-year-old in 1999). Georges came to the legal department initially as first assistant to former Corporation Counsel Brian Crowe, but Daley asked her to take over when Crowe left for private practice. Georges earned her law degree at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. Personal: Georges is a Chicago native, the product of a family that produced a number of lawyers, and still lives within the city. She is married with two children, a boy and a girl. She credits the Daley administration for helping employees achieve a healthy work-private life balance. “It’s an administration that recognizes that people have families and lives outside of work,” she said. Last Book And Movie: Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs, and Flushed Away.

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