Following earlier controversies, the Cook County Board of Ethics named a member of Cook County’s Professional Standards Review Board as its new chair Monday, after the previous two officials were tossed from office on criminal charges amid earlier shakeups.

The board’s regular meeting was overshadowed by the appointment of Bridget Gainer, 52, a former Topeka, Kan., district attorney and assistant state’s attorney who also had served as an executive with a family-owned business.

After being selected by Commissioner Ed Butowsky, a Democrat from Near North Side, Gainer is charged with overseeing appointments to local boards and commissions as well as potential conflicts of interest for board members. Butowsky is also one of two Democrats who have nominated Gainer.

Gainer, a longtime prosecutor, told the Board that she plans to communicate with board members by phone and speak over the devices that enable the use of instant messaging in county offices.

“You have got to make sure the message reaches all the members of the board,” Gainer said.

Gainer, a board member since 1985, holds a bachelor’s degree in law and criminal-justice studies from the University of Kansas and a law degree from Southern Illinois University. She is also the daughter of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Gainer joins at least two other council members who have stepped down amid controversy: Mark Kennedy, who was recently confirmed as State’s Attorney by the state Senate after serving one term on the board for nearly a decade, and Zachary Fardon, who was recently nominated to the Illinois Supreme Court by Gov. Bruce Rauner and confirmed by the House in February. Both Kennedy and Fardon have previous criminal convictions for DUI and theft.

Gainer said she aims to improve transparency in the work of the board and to listen to members of the public.

“That’s the biggest part of it. We have to provide a better and more open environment for all of us,” she said.

Republicans and Democrats on the board and in the general population criticized her selections Monday, with many saying it appears that she is selected because of her friendship with Butowsky.

Nationally, efforts to make sure people aren’t elected to positions outside their law-enforcement expertise have generated controversy, with GOP candidates cited in election-night accusations against Democratic officials as well as Republicans elected statewide. A Republican congressman, Phil Roe, conceded on election night that he too made up law-enforcement credentials to avoid a race-eve ambush.

“That was an attempt to circumvent the process,” Butowsky said Monday. “I give her a lot of credit.”

agrimm@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @agrimm41

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