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The problem with patronage

Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014

* The Tribune published a long story over the weekend about Speaker Madigan’s patronage army. My favorite part

The Tribune found many cases in which Madigan operatives bounced from government job to government job, agency to agency. One example is David Foley, 50, a longtime top precinct captain who has donated more than $23,000 to Madigan political funds since 1999, when he got one of nearly a dozen different government jobs he has held in 25 years.

Foley lasted only weeks in some jobs, was fired from one and landed in another position that has been repeatedly filled by members of Madigan’s political brigade.

Records show he’s been an engineer technician at the Cook County Highway Department, county correctional officer, seasonal laborer for the county Forest Preserve District, Chicago cop, administrative assistant to the county recorder of deeds, customer service manager at the county treasurer’s office, cemetery hotline director for the state comptroller, executive officer under the county medical examiner, state highway traffic patrol manager and director of verification for the Chicago city clerk, and is now an executive assistant for the secretary of state.

When Foley took the city clerk job, one of the top positions in the office, in January 2012, he succeeded another Madigan precinct captain. That worker, Lawrence McPhillips, left to take another government job making $123,000 for the city.

When Foley left the post last year, he was succeeded by James Gleffe, 31. Gleffe, who records show came from a $65,000 job as a legal adviser to the secretary of state, has been a Madigan paid political soldier since 2010, records show. Gleffe makes more than $99,000 a year, according to the clerk’s office.

The biggest problem I have with patronage is people like that.

You got a hard worker who would do a really good job at a particular agency? OK, well, make your pitch. The courts have defined that as protected speech. But if he’s a mope, you shouldn’t be constantly sticking up for him. That’s truly bad for government.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    All they got from Madigan was protection from other guys applying for the best jobs. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the FBI can never understand - that what Madigan and the organization offer is protection for the kinds of guys who can’t get promoted on their own. They’re like the human resources department for precinct captains.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    You beat me - 47th Ward - … well played!

    Congratulations on your GH, very well deserving.

    To the Post,

    Like the Goodfellas quote, that is the story here, and while it is part and parcel of the process, it doesn’t make it right, and no one should have the opportunity to mess up as much as a person might in the example cited, like in Goodfellas, the more light that is shined on the “bad” aspects, maybe those few will think twice about asking for the “protection”.

    If I knew the answer to make it all work, the 13th Ward would already be using it before I thought about it.

  3. - Fed up - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    But if he’s a mope, you shouldn’t be constantly sticking up for him. That’s truly bad for government.

    Bad for government and Illinois don’t matter,good for Madigan is all that matters. No shame just pure power that’s Madigan.

  4. - Fed up - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    Sure and all Lisa got was protection. She was the ” best “candidate to be an Il state sen and the best lawyer to be AG.
    I’m sure no administrator in any unit of govt felt they had to hire an unqualified Madigan guy just because Madigan controls the state purse strings.

  5. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    “Who’s your clout?” takes on new meaning. You gotta know the folks in those agencies wince when they got volunteered to take on one of these jamokes. It just means more work for them and they gotta watch while this protected employee poisons the workplace.

  6. - Obama's Puppy - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Just add this to the pile of MJM stories that at the end of the day don’t mean anything. Nothing will come of this just like the 50 other stories that have exposed essentially the same practice. This is the Trib serving it up for Brucey baby to spike one over the $100 million dollar net.

  7. - shore - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    They’re important and contribute to a narrative. It’s when this all comes back to haunt him or Lisa that counts now.

  8. - markwalker - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    Couldn’t agree more with Rich’s final comment.

    Don’t protect your “mopes”, or your ability to help the better-qualified is threatened. One really bad recommendation can destroy your credibility.

  9. - Orland (D) - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    Stop the presses…Madigan helps those who help him. There is nothing new here. I’m waiting for the Trib to write a story on all the Burke (14th ward), Hynes-Sheahan-Dart-Joyce (19th ward) and Daley(s)(11th Ward)job beneficiaries too.

  10. - Downstater - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    What is really sad is many of these Government jobs are not needed. And people constantly gripe, when someone says “cut government spending.”
    The City that always worked may not be so in the near future, without significant increases in property taxes.

  11. - Steve - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    Why should someone get a “pitch” from a politician that votes on the budget of a government agency???

  12. - ash - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    I was talking to someone once when I found out they worked for Madigan. When I said,”I’m sorry,” his reply was, “I’m not, he’s loyal.” Apparently loyalty and patronage can excuse bad governance? This person though so.

  13. - Sangamo Sam - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    “[C]emetery hotline director for the state comptroller.” I can understand losing that one. It must have been a pretty high pressure job. That reminds me of the last words my grandfather spoke: “A truck!”’

  14. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    Over the years we had to deal with a number of patronage types and it was almost impossible to get rid of them. Some of them were decent workers; others were just useless. Usually the best you could do with the useless ones was isolate them where they couldn’t do any harm.

    For this guy to have held that many different jobs, he had to be a complete loser. Unfortunately, the large percentage of the public believes all government workers are like this clown …

  15. - 100 Miles West - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    The problem with patronage since Blago is numbers. The Republicans were smart enough to know patronage only works with big government. Hire through the veterans then hire enough non-patronage guys/gals to cover for the mopes you gotta hire. With “hiring freeze” the mopes REALLY stand out.

  16. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    waiting for the tribbies to give us a little insight into Dan Cronin’s circulators/jobs/ donations
    400+ volunteers and a handful of folks with some anecdotal job issues…looks like another shot and miss for the I Team or whatever they call themselves.

  17. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    The thing is you have to protect your mopes, because if you don’t protect virtually everyone, the perceived value of helping someone else goes on…

    It is a bit like a union, if they don’t fight for everyone (even the mopes) the regular folks don’t think they are working to help them.

  18. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    RNUG hit it on the head. All public sector employees are tainted because of these patronage mopes, and a perfect example of this broad taint is exemplified by Downstater’s ignorant, unsupported drive-by comment above.

  19. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    ==Sure and all Lisa got was protection. She was the ” best “candidate to be an Il state sen and the best lawyer to be AG.==

    What in the world does that have to do with anything? Not a fan of elections are we? Yeah, Lisa was “clouted” into elected positions. What a maroon.

  20. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    I was given a “exceeds expectations” in my annual review once, and a few weeks later was fired for “not meeting expectations” and coincidently the very next day a Madigan guy was hired for my old job. So from my perspective not only do losers get jobs, good people lose theirs.

  21. - 4 percent - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    Personally, I think that the Rutan decision ranks up there with the end of multi-member districts as some of the worst things that have happened to state government.

    A Governor needs like-minded individuals to carry out his or her policies. Back in the day, state employees knew that they had better perform and get the job done or it would fall back on their “boss” who could lose an election. Therefore, they had much greater motivation to do a good job.

    Today, state workers are overwhelmingly union (legislative liaisons, prision wardens, please!!) and have no pressure to do a good job. They have union rights and most likely cannot be terminated. Most have no incentive to really go above and beyond to get the job done right.

    I say bring back political hiring.

  22. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 6:22 pm:

    4 percent - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    “Back in the day …”

    I assume sometime before civil service was implemented? Soemtime around Paul Powell or Otto Kerner?

    Political hiring didn’t go away after Rutan; they just were less blatant about how they did it.

    As far as union employees go, it’s a not easy to fire one but it can be done if you are determined to do so. It’s virtually impossible to get rid of a politically connected mope.

    I’m no union fan but imagine having a complete workforce of mopes who couldn’t be fired because of their political sponsors … not a pretty picture.

  23. - funny guy - Tuesday, Jan 7, 14 @ 10:32 pm:

    I believe I read in one of President Washington’s biographies that he spent about the first 6 months of his presidency filling the posts of Sheriff in all of the country’s jurisdictions with people that either supported his presidency or were recommended by his friends. To the winner goes the spoils. I am no friend of Madigan’s, but this has been going on for centuries and is basic human nature.

  24. - Henry Clay - Wednesday, Jan 8, 14 @ 7:24 am:

    Something that has been happening and tolerated for centuries obviously does not mean that it should be accepted and tolerated for even a day longer in the future. The Tribune articles are not “news flashes” but perhaps they do help to grate on the public’s conscience and sense of injustice.

  25. - Chris - Wednesday, Jan 8, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    “RNUG hit it on the head. All public sector employees are tainted because of these patronage mopes”

    Same thing with CPD–the thug cops make the rest of ‘em look bad.

    “I believe I read in one of President Washington’s biographies that he spent about the first 6 months of his presidency filling the posts of Sheriff in all of the country’s jurisdictions with people that either supported his presidency or were recommended by his friends. To the winner goes the spoils.”

    And Adams was free to fire all of ‘em 8 years later. We have some of Madigan’s folks who have never had another job and retired by now. Which is why ‘victor’s spoils’ is cold comfort.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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