Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appoints new director of human rights and ethics

Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has appointed a former top lawyer from the clerk’s office to be the next director of the county’s Department of Human Rights and Ethics.

Sisavanh Baker will start her new role on Monday, Preckwinkle spokesman Nick Mathiowdis wrote in a Thursday statement. Her predecessor, Keith Chambers, resigned on Nov. 16 and Deputy Director Gina Smith has led the department on an interim basis.

The department focuses on “ethics and human rights” work with the president’s office, the Board of Ethics and the Commission on Human Rights, Mathiowdis said.

Baker was recently chief legal counsel at Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough’s office. Before that, she was an assistant Cook County state’s attorney for almost 15 years, supervising civil actions for three state’s attorneys.

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“Ms. Baker has strong management experience and has engaged in litigation practice as well as providing legal advice and counsel to Cook County,” Mathiowdis said. “Ms. Baker’s litigation, investigative, management and transactional experience will be an asset to the County as she evaluates the needs of the Department.”

Baker was introduced Thursday during a Board of Ethics meeting by Smith.

Baker responded during the meeting, “I’m looking forward to working with everyone. I understand that this an excellent team, and I hope that I can contribute to it.”

ayin@chicagotribune.com