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Barney Fife strikes again

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

This is one of the worst cases of bureaucratic foolishness that I’ve seen in a very long while.

The governor’s inspector general flunked thousands of state employees on an annual ethics exam because they rushed.

Letters sent to 5,000 or more state employees rescinded “certificates of completion” on the ethics review because they didn’t spend the minimum amount of time on the computerized program.

A spokesman for an employees’ union called the situation “preposterous.”

Some employees spent less than 10 minutes on the program, which includes 80 pages. Inspector General James Wright’s office said employees, on average, spend more than a half-hour reviewing the training.

The governor’s inspector general’s office established a minimum time for taking the exam, but they won’t say what those minimums are and didn’t bother to tell the test-takers that they’d better study long and hard before they took the goofy little exam at the end of the packet. Now, thousands of state workers face disciplinary action for pretty much no reason whatsoever.

The IG’s office ought to be ashamed of itself for being such a bunch of cruel nitwits. Unfortunately, like any bureaucrat without a clue of how to accomplish their mandates, and flush with their own authority (and eager, like Barney, to finally take that bullet out of their shirt pocket), they are probably patting themselves on the back right now.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - annon. - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 6:50 am:

    That whole thing is ridiculous !!!!! It’s been going on for 3 years plus !!! You learn nothing, it’s “required” & most questions you can figure out before you finish the question,. re-hashing the last 3 years questions–rearranged. The obvious is there & one question {believe it or not} is whether you rerad thru the entire excercise ! Wonder who’s brother-in-law or cousin or babysitter is in charge of that “program” ??? Wonder what our illustrious governors score was ????

  2. - exasperated employee - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 6:55 am:

    The ethics test has been a joke from the beginning. It is all common sense stuff (although it is true that this administration has none, so perhaps that explains the test) AND! someone at our agency learned that if you answer the questions incorrectly, you are given multiple opportunities to correct them…but after about five tries, you just automatically pass. In addition, this year we got a letter from someone (I don’t remember who - IG? head of agency? the gov himself?) telling us that under no circumstances were we to print or share the contents of the test with ANYONE. So I found it interesting that Schoenberg seemed to have access. Apparently the test isn’t all that effective - but that’s not surprising given the source.

  3. - Huh? - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 6:57 am:

    What is so funny about this situation is that it is so inane as to be funny. The vast majority of the “B Team” as honest, decent people who are just trying to get through the day without crying because of the stupid stuff the has been foisted on them.

    Someone should retake the test and print all of the pages just so people can see just how stupid this test and training really are. Given all of the political mess that hairdo has been in, if you have read the papers, you could pass this test.

  4. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:13 am:

    Mandatory ethics testing for state employees is like an alcoholic coach requiring urine testing from his players.

  5. - Disgusted - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:19 am:

    Absolutely ridiculous - both the test and the Inspector General. However, here’s another thing that Blago can put in a negative light against state employees. Besides being lazy, incompetent, Republican (that’s a joke, folks), careless, etc., now he can say they can’t follow the rules and may be cheaters as well. It’s amazing that this group of individuals is able to get the work of the state done, while having to live with name-calling, fiscal incompetence, neglecting health care providers and just plain fraud.
    Tick, tick, tick.

  6. - Shallow Pharnyx - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:19 am:

    If you can read and comprehend at a 3rd grade level, you can pass this “test” in 10 minutes. It’s not like there are 80 pages of 8.5 by 11 words. There are plenty of pictures and huge fonts- more like a Powerpoint presentation. Not worth the $275,000+ to prepare (which should have been one of the questions- would it be ethical to charge the state of Illinois $275,000 for this presentation?) I think it is just another ploy by this admin to divert attention from their own lack of ethics.

  7. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:23 am:

    What percentage of the 5,000 offenders came from previos administrations?

    What percentage of the 5,000 offenders come from the current ‘administration’?

    How many taxpayers dollars are being wasted on this addle-brained witchhunt?

    Can Abby Ottenhoff call this inquisition “fair and unbiased”?

  8. - Gregor - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:31 am:

    Let’s not forget the awarding of the contract to produce the test to a California firm is itself under an ethical cloud.

    I have an easy method for state workers to stay honest: do the opposite of whatever your boss Rod does.

  9. - 4% - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:37 am:

    Two questions that an enterprising reporter should ask:

    1. Did the Governor take the ethics test?

    2. How long did it take the Governor?

    I’ll forgo the question of how many times it took him to actually pass the test or if Bradley took it for him.

  10. - Where's the Leadership??? - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:39 am:

    It is not the rank and file that needs to take this test…..It is the big dogs. It is a waiste of time typical Blago fluff n stuff.

  11. - Wumpus - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:39 am:

    Well, for most people, ethics is not as difficult as it is for this administration.

  12. - Still Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:44 am:

    Re: ethics testing and the IG - here’s the real problem. It’s similar to the Greylord problem - that is, the problem with corrupt judges is not just that guilty men go free, it’s that individuals who aren’t guilty may get banged to make the stats look better (who wants a conviction rate of 0?)

    So the question becomes the IG has targeted some folks whose “breaches” were not bad enough to be inconsequential, or whether others disciplined as the result of an IG investigation really breached their duty to the taxpayers.

  13. - Still Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:46 am:

    Oops. Correction. The question becomes whether the IG has targeted etc.

  14. - Anon2 - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:47 am:

    Most people who had gone through the ethics training/testing process before can finish the process in well less than 10 minutes. First timers and slow readers would take longer.

    The question of taking too little time to take the Ethics Test came up last year. This year, many of us discussed needing to take the test slowly.

    We purposely took longer than necessary to take the test and get back to work. We would turn a page, take a drink of coffee, waste a few minutes doing nothing of value, then answer the question and move on. Had we not intentionaly delayed the process, we also would have been done and back to work in way less then 10 minutes.

    Just another stupid example of government regulation. What is important here? Knowing the right ethics answer? Or, being signed into the ethics training/testing program for more than 10 minutes?

    Truely idiotic. Those of us who intentionally wasted time are being praised for doing it right. If the IG thinks we needed to spend all that time actually reading all of the dumb examples and setup material to know the right answer, then the IG needs some training.

  15. - Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:50 am:

    I took the test. Although I didn’t enjoy doing so, I think it was a good reminder/refresher of “common sense”, but as some wag once said, sometimes common sense ain’t so common.

    The instructions to the test clearly stated that my participation would be timed and that if my time was so quick that it suggested I wasn’t actually reading the material but just clicking through, that the test score wouldn’t count. Fair warning!

    Anyone unbiased enough to notice the irony here? The requirement was that you read through all the material AND take the test, not just that you take the test. There is no way you can do that in 10 minutes. Anybody who did, clearly cheated ON AN ETHICS EXAM. And then they’re complaining about it. And others are defending them saying that it’s only the higher ups who need the ethics exam.

    Obviously, if rank and file employees would cheat ON AN ETHICS EXAM, they’ve got real problems. (And why in the world would the test givers tell people in advance how minutes is sufficient - that’s just inviting more cheating!)

  16. - zatoichi - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:53 am:

    So the real answer is to take the test then wait at least 30 minutes before you turn it in?

  17. - Still Anon - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:56 am:

    Anon 8:50 - hasn’t it been the same test every year? Once I learned there were three branches of government, I could ace that question on a civics test, whether it was third grade or high school. Cheating would be copying someone else’s answers, or asking a co-worker for help. Knowing the material is not cheating.

  18. - Thlema - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 9:04 am:

    No, the real answer is to READ ALL THE MATERIALS, then answer the questions. The main point isn’t just passing a test, if it was the test taker would not be given so many chances to get the correct answer.

    The point is to read everything through and, maybe even, learn a bit. Or, at the very least, it’s a brief reminder of the rules and that everyone is supposed to follow them. Anon 8:50 has the right of it.

  19. - Jaded - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 10:12 am:

    I also took the test(a couple of years ago) it was silly and an absolute piece of cake. I still have my certificate. The instructions tell you it should take a certain amount of time, and I am sure it does for people who got C’s in constitutional law, but I got a B+, so it took me about 10 minutes (and yes I read everything because it was so funny).

    If it is the same, the material reads more like another campaign commercial. It basically took shots at all three of the previous Republican leaders (Ryan, Daniels, and Philips) for their unethical behavior. However, now that the current governor and his staff have allegedly participated in some questionable, if not unethical behavior of their own, maybe they should ask questions that have real world implications.

    Sample questions

    1) If you were Governor, and your baby sitter asked you for a spot on a commission should you:

    A) Appoint her only if she agrees to vote with you on all issues;
    B) Appoint her but only if she agrees to vote against you on all issues;
    C) Appoint her and blame it all on the previous administration; or
    D) Give her a raise you cheap a$$, then she won’t need to moonlight on the state’s dime.

    A campaign donor asks you for money to build baseball stadium when the state can’t even pay its own bills. Should you:

    A) Give him the money;
    B) Give him more money than he asks for;
    C) Give him the money but only if he gives another $100k to your favorite charity…Citizens for Blagojevich; or
    D) Blame it all on the previous Administration.

    and Finally

    If you work the Governor’s office and the US attorney has you in his sights should you

    A) Deny, Deny, Deny (after all it worked so well for George Ryan)
    B) Rat out everyone you can to save your own skin (aka the Udsteun/Levine maneuver)
    C) Blame the previous administration
    D) Pack your soap on a rope cause your headed for the graybar hotel.

  20. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 10:27 am:

    This being anonymous, I guess people can post whatever they want. But the test is NOT the same every year. The prior tests did NOT knock Ryan, Daniels or Philips. And the point of the “test” is actually to get you to take the course, not “ace” a constitutional law exam. It’s no different than many of the other educational/continuing education programs offered by CMS, except most of them last all day! People are really (intentionally?) missing the point.

  21. - DOWNSTATE - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 10:35 am:

    Hey you start the test go loaf around on state time and 30 minutes later finish the test.If they want to waste money with stupidity help them out.Where the hell is your team spirit.I still can’t believe this is going on.Maybe if JBT gets in she will do away with this.

  22. - Guy Fawkes - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 11:09 am:

    Mr. Wright is just trying justify his existence by flunking thousands of state employees on an annual ethics exam because they rushed. How does he know they rushed were they videotaped.
    Inspector General James Wright is “HACK” period!
    Mr. Wright did absolutely NOTHING during his tenure at the Illinois Tollway accept collect a BIG FAT CHECK and look the other way.
    Then he gets promoted….

  23. - NumbersGuy - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 11:37 am:

    Rich, you are spot on in the “Barney Fife” analogy. Thank God the GA wisely withheld police powers and badges from these people.
    In my agency, we had about 10 “ethically non-compliant” people. For the most part, they were the MBAs, number crunchers, who do ALL their work quickly and efficiently and who had no problem getting this thing done in under 10 minutes.
    On the other hand, snce the geniuses in CA that designed the “ethics exam” didn’t try to check for inactivity, as the poster above wrote, it’s rumored that one could start the test, go to lunch, come back and finish it and be perfectly “compliant.”

    Go AFSCME Go.

  24. - annon. - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 1:55 pm:

    The first year was absoulutely insane…railing Geo. Ryan..even had a picture of a guy who looked like Geo. Fact is it is NOT training. You sit in front of a computer {when you can get on} type in “passwords” ect & it prompts you along. That’s so when an average guy or if an “R” screws up even ever slightly ..they can bounce them as being “”trained”". The set-up & reconfiguring each successive year has got to be expenseive. If they got a “Passing” grade …what’s the deal ????? It’s exposure at rules at best ….mostly common sense & often doesn’t apply. It’s taken them what 4 or 5 months to find these 5000. The tests are over a period of time usually starting in April. I guess they spread it out so the whole state doesn’t stop working to be “trained” . What is there 58,000 people potentially who have to take this “training”. 5,000 x 5,000 hours {each taking an hour to do it as it take sometimes 15–20 minutes just to get on}what a waste. And disciplinary action to boot !!! ???????

  25. - Jaded - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 2:05 pm:

    Sorry we are all missing the point Anonymous 10:27, but when you post as “Anonymous” and then blast anonymous posters, I think maybe it is you who miss the point.

    So here is my point, the test was worthless when I took in, and it is worthless now, and rescinding certificates from employees because they did not waste enough of their worthless day on this worthless course borders on ludicrous.

    By the way, I am looking at my Certificate of Completion from 2004 right now, and it says that it was “Certified by the Office of Executive Inspector General”. Do they still say that? If so, wouldn’t certifying a fraudulent document make the IG’s office a co-conspirator?

  26. - Jaded - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 3:07 pm:

    By the way, my use of the words “worthless day” was not meant to be a shot at state employees. I actually have a lot of respect for most state employees (especially under the current circumstances).

  27. - Criminal Enterprise Called Illinois - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 3:24 pm:

    When I took my tests, they screwed up both times. I had trouble with the program. I, however, passed. The test is a joke because the people who really should be taking it don’t have to! Ethics training in Illinois. What a concept.

  28. - Ghost Buster - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 6:38 pm:

    There will be no prolbem the next time I take the test. I will read and study all questions and do my best to take till lunch. This is much more important than plowing snow or assisting a stranded motorist!!

  29. - Concerned Voter - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 7:04 pm:

    As others have said, the test is a joke, but the worst part is, many state employees do not have the power that many of the emloyees in the test questions have, many are just hard working clerical types, doing a job that does not directly effect others.

  30. - state worker - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:37 pm:

    It is a joke to take the state ethics exam. There have been 40-50 political hacks hired in District 8 (some never even interviewed, just showed up and started working as someones assistant). I find it ironic that last year our assistant to the DE went on a leave on absence to run someone’s campaign. We he returned to IDOT, he was given a big fat promotion, even though the guy whose campaign he ran lost. Now, another high ranking political hack is on a leave of absence running someone else’s campaign. I can hardly wait to see what promotion lies in wait for her.

  31. - Another Disgruntled State Employee - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 8:39 pm:

    When I took the exam, I got a chuckle out of it, because it outlined unethical scenarios that Blago’s clowns had actually engaged in.

  32. - zatoichi - Thursday, Aug 31, 06 @ 10:23 pm:

    Since these 5,000 must have actually answered the questions correctly to get a “certificate of completion” I must be missing the problem. Every 5 years I take a recertification test in my profession. You are alotted two 3 hours periods. If you can get it done in two 1.5 hour periods and pass, you pass. After a certain number of years and experience you should just know the answers to important concepts in your profession. If you need the full 6 hours, go for it. Now if these people all had an answer sheet off the Internet or somewhere, that is a different issue. So far I haven’t heard of that.

  33. - Max Maxwell - Friday, Sep 1, 06 @ 6:20 pm:

    I took the test and can confirm it is very easy to identify the correct answers without reading the material. Therefore, it is a bad test from a psychometric perspective. Just like last year’s test. Requiring all the office clerks, janitors, mental health techs and caseworkers take the test makes no sense. These people have never written a contract or had someone buy them lunch. This administration wants to appear like they care about ethics, but that’s the extent of it.

  34. - To 8:50 a.m. - Tuesday, Sep 5, 06 @ 10:44 am:

    Governor Blagojevich and the Inspector General set up state employees again to draw attention from the many scandals in this corrupt administration. If they have the computer ability to record the time spent on the training modules, then they probably had the technical ability to prevent taking the ethics test before the arbitrary time they selected expired. They wrote and approved the ethics training modules and computer program. Instead of taking responsibility for producing a flawed ethics training computer program at an egregious cost to taxpayers, they blame the test takers not the test makers. They fabricated a problem to make themselves appear to be concerned about ethics and draw attention from their own ethical incompetence.

    In my opinion, this fabrication is not only unethical, but also illegal under the Employee Ethics Act. I think that Governor Blagojevich and the Inspector General should be investigated by the U.S. Attorney for conspiring to violating those laws. The many letters that were mailed are almost as good as a confession in a court of law because the Inspector General signed all the letters. The U.S. Attorney would only have to prove that Governor Blagojevich and the Inspector General conspired to withhold the arbitrary time requirement from the test takers. Otherwise, all of the set employees could file a civil lawsuit in Federal court for the damages the co-conspirators Governor Blagojevich and the Inspector General inflicted on their careers and families.

    Additionally, please post your e-mail address here. I am willing to set up a time to tutor you in remedial reading and to teach you how to respect most other state employees, who have the education and intelligence to read faster than you read. Unless you have a learning disability, I am absolutely certain I can teach you to read the training modules in less than 10 minutes without cheating.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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