CHICAGO — Mayor Richard Daley shuffled the deck at City Hall on Thursday, moving the respected city fire commissioner to the top spot in Chicago’s 911 office, which is the subject of an investigation into possible contract irregularities.
Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco will serve as the executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Taking Orozco’s place as fire chief is John Brooks, who moves up from first deputy to the top Fire Department slot.
A source confirmed that $2 million in payments for communications equipment in the 911 office are being looked at by City Inspector General David Hoffman. James Argiropoulos, the office’s acting executive director, is a focus of that probe, the source said.
Emergency management spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez said Argiropoulos was unavailable for comment because he was spending time with a sick relative.
Daley, however, said he was not making the changes because of the investigation and defended Argiropoulos, suggesting he would stay on in a high-level capacity.
“Jimmy is very good, he is the first deputy,” Daley said. “Very good. Hard working, honest and intelligent. He’s married to his family, but he’s married to his job. Ask anyone over there. Jimmy’s the best.”
Daley said Orozco would essentially serve as the city’s disaster czar. “OEMC has always been in charge of disaster scenes,” the mayor said.
But that raised questions about the role of Police Supt. Jody Weis. When he was hired six months ago at $310,000 a year, the Daley administration justified the eyebrow-raising salary by saying Weis would double as the city’s chief emergency officer.
Daley responded by saying Weis, a former supervising FBI agent, would continue to focus on terrorism planning efforts. “That is one thing he has been an expert with over the years,” the mayor said.
Police Department Spokeswoman Monique Bond said that always was Weis’ intended role.
Brooks would become the second African-American chief of the Fire Department, which has a history of racial tension, if the City Council approves his appointment. Cortez Trotter, appointed to lead the Fire Department in 2004 during the height of that racial tension, was the first.
Brooks, 50, joined the department in 1980. He became first deputy in July 2006. In his new post, he will run a $470 million-a-year department that has more than 5,000 firefighters.
Chicago Firefighters Union President Tom Ryan said Brooks is a respected firefighter who is trusted by the union.
“He came up through the ranks,” Ryan said. “I personally have never worked as a firefighter with him but everyone I know who has worked with him respects him. … He’s always been fair and honest with us.”
In his new post, Orozco, 49, would get a slight boost in salary to $189,360 a year. Brooks would make $185,652. Both appointments must win City Council approval.
Tribune reporter Tribune reporter Angela Rozas contributed to this report.