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Quinn, Schneider try to explain patronage hiring

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

* A patronage hiring controversy at IDOT started cranking up while I was on break. Today’s update from the AP

Gov. Pat Quinn says the increase in jobs free from hiring rules at the Illinois Department of Transportation were “absolutely” necessary.

He told reporters Monday that there were federal stimulus dollars that had to be spent quickly and efficiently, along with a massive capital bill. He says policy makers were needed.

Documents released last week by his office showed an increase of 57 percent from 2003 to 2011. The documents showed that in 2011 there were 369 jobs at IDOT that could be given without restriction to those with political connections. That was up from 234 in 2003.

Umm, OK.

* The document release came after a lawsuit was filed April 22nd

A Chicago lawyer asked a federal judge yesterday to order an investigation into hiring under Gov. Pat Quinn, saying there’s an “embedded culture of patronage practices” in Illinois government and anyone who improperly got a job should be fired.

Michael Shakman, known for bringing the decades-old court case that led to bans on politically based hiring in Chicago and Cook County, filed his motion in U.S. District Court in Chicago as part of that ongoing lawsuit.

The filing accuses Quinn of improper hiring and reclassification of employees in the Illinois Department of Transportation. It cites a 2013 report by the Better Government Association, a watchdog group, that concluded hundreds of IDOT jobs may have been wrongly filled based on “clout instead of competence.”

* The BGA has been pushing this story for a while now, claiming that the hirings were illegal. Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider has avoided commenting on the issue, but finally sat down with the BGA last week. Here’s some of what she had to say

Patrick McCraney/BGA: As you see it, what did IDOT do wrong when it comes to Rutan?

Ann Schneider/IDOT Secretary: Well, the way that I look at this is that we had gotten position descriptions that were sent over to [the Illinois Department of Central Management Services] for classification, and when they came back, they came back as Rutan-exempt [the job classification that allows a hire to be made based on politics]. We went through the Rutan-exempt hiring for those positions and, I think that as your story rightly pointed out last year, some of those people brought in under those position descriptions ended up performing duties outside of those position descriptions. Thankfully, to you, really, for bringing this to our attention, we found that perhaps people were not performing Rutan-exempt duties that they were hired to perform.

At that point, I thought it was important that we stopped hiring any of these staff assistant positions, and that we do a review of the processes related to the positions, and at the same time that we reviewed the process, that we also audited those positions. In other words, we did a desk audit, there was a team, a third-party, that we brought in to conduct interviews of the people in these positions to find out what their job duties were, also to interview their supervisors, to find out what it is their supervisors expect of those positions.

As a result of those interviews and that desk audit, we drew up these new job descriptions that more accurately reflect the work that these people were doing. Those descriptions were sent to CMS for re-classification, and we have just gotten back, really, just a couple days ago, and we were going through what we got back from CMS, but it appears based on what they sent back to us, that, it appears right now that 48 of the 60 positions, they’re performing Rutan-covered duties, so those are Rutan-covered positions, and 12 of those positions that were sent over came back as retaining their Rutan-exempt status.

* When told that Shakman believes IDOT should only have 20 or so “double-exempt” positions, which are exempt from both US Supreme Court’s Rutan ruling, and the personnel code, Schneider said this

I think that 20, for an organization of more than 5,200 people, that’s statewide, that covers nine different districts, and beyond those nine districts we have three other offices, people obviously have to run all of those locations, and make sure that the vision and mission of the administration is being carried out appropriately. And then, when we looked at the auditors, and the attorneys, obviously they are all privy to a lot of confidential information, and as we get into labor relations, for obvious reasons we want them to be double-exempt, non-union people, the legislative and governmental affairs are obviously speaking on behalf of the administration, and helping us to move policy through the General Assembly, and our local community liaisons are the same. I think if there was a review done of everybody who is classified for every position as double-exempt, I don’t think there would be much disagreement that where we’re at is closer to the appropriate level.

* She also went into more detail about who was double-exempt

(W)e have 13 different offices and divisions, each of those offices and divisions have directors. It’s very important in those positions to have people that are able to carry out the mission and the vision of the governor and the administration. Within that, we’ve also got deputy directors, there’s a number of deputy directors. We also have, there are 40 engineers at IDOT that are double-exempt positions… And, those 40 engineers are all a five or above, so they’re all in managerial roles, they’re all in roles to carry out what the agency does. We also have over 20 attorneys that are double-exempt. Our audit staff is also double-exempt. Our labor relations staff, our legislative and governmental affairs staff are double exempt. We also have what we call “Local Community Liaisons,” and these are folks that work for us that are out in the community and dealing with the mayors and the local elected officials and even with constituents, to address their transportation concerns, and also to help us with carrying out the mission of the organization, so they are also double-exempt. We have some support staff, we have some executive secretaries and administrative assistants, that support all of these people in these roles, that are privy to confidential conversations and information, and they are also considered double-exempt.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

    Pretty easy negative spot for Rauner to produce when the time comes, just like the crime grant audit.

  2. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    I would question any auditor position that was classified Rutan-exempt. While they may develop guidelines based on legislation and industry best practices, those people don’t really set policy; they check that policy is being followed. They should also be under the protection of the State Civil Service / Personnel Code. Auditors need to be protected / independent enough to do an honest job as opposed to a whitewash requested by whoever the current administration.

  3. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Since Mitt Rauner is a big BGA funder we are surprised why Capt Fax has not asked BGA honchos to tell everyone who is paying Shakman? We were stunned to see BGA press release run at the top of the front page of SJR last week. When was the last time a lobbyist got that type of play?

  4. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    We have the patronage chief of a former governor as our current governor.

    It is miraculous there hasn’t been more like this discovered yet.

  5. - Sprockets - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    So, let’s say you have some political folks you want to hire. You can’t get them in due to Rutan. You go to CMS and describe some jobs that will fit in as exempt from Rutan. You hire your people. You decide you want to get those people into the union, but you can’t do it because of the veteran’s preference, the internal union bumping and disability list. Hmmm. What do you do? You hire an auditor to interview (desk audit) your must-hires, you tell them that they must absolutely say they have nothing to do with confidential policy decisions and voila, you get them placed into the union. Not a bad strategy.

    But, I am just speaking hypothetically (and cynically), of course.

  6. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    ==carry out the mission and the vision of the governor==

    From 2003 through 2008 it was the vision of the guy who is now in federal prison. Just let that sit there and soak in for a minute.

    Most of these people were hired to do Rod’s bidding. Specifically reward people who supported or would support Rod by lining his pockets.

    When they look name by name they will find several people with the sole qualification of working Rod’s campaign. The real crime is now they have been there 11 years and they are vested in the pension system. Unless they are all prosecuted, we are now exposed to millions in pension obligations to these people now.

  7. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    Since Shakman knows how many double-exempts IDOT should have (what a renaissance man he must be, to know from afar), perhaps he should apply for the CMS Director job. His broad knowledge would save a lot of staff work. Staff wouldn’t have to evaluate positions, they could just ask Mike

  8. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    ==It is miraculous there hasn’t been more like this discovered yet==

    It is not a miracle. It is a product of having an AG who does not prosecute political corruption an has stayed away from the Rod issue because her father was the one who picked him over Paul Vallas and then chose not to replace him, even after he knew Rod was dirty.

    The fact is, had Rod not tried to sell as Senate Seat he would still be our Governor.

  9. - Toure's Latte - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    Her explanation is exhausting. With all everyone has to keep track of — non-exempt, exempt, double exempt, double secret exempt — it is a wonder any work gets done. 13 different offices and divisions? That’s some bureaucracy they got there.

  10. - CitizenF - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    A perspective question is “how many new professional (career path/civil service) positions have been filled during the same period?”

  11. - Oneman - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    Our audit staff is also double-exempt.

    Really, your auditors? The folks who watch what is going on are double exempt?

    Because nothing says quickly and efficiently than giving party chairs jobs…

    Looking forward to seeing the credentials of all these important decision makers…

  12. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:04 pm:

    The key question for those who would assign blame would seem to me to be how much the number increased on the current Gov’s watch, not how much it increased under Rod

  13. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    With all due respect to Secretary Schneider (and every Governor from Edgar forwards), Illinois has 3,000 Rutan exempt positions for 60,000 Governor agency employees (that was the approximate headcount when Edgar became Governor), or 1 in 20.

    The President has approximately 3,000 Civil Service exempt positions for approximately 2,700,000 civilian employees, or 1 in 900. And the Federal Government has THOUSANDS of Civil Service auditors, attorneys, engineers … .

    The nature of the problem becomes evident … .

  14. - Woman on Fire - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    The R’s created the practice of patronage and the D’s continue it. At least IL politicos are consistent.

  15. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    actually it was about 68,000 if I remember correctly

  16. - Bogart - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    An engineer needs to be exempt? Why? To make the math/science meet the policy objective.

  17. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Pat Quinn’s has been a professional patronage player since 1972 - even before Thompson and the GOP gubernatorial takeover.

    He is to patronage what Michael J. Madigan is to gerrymandering.

  18. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:40 pm:

    IDOT has had a rich history of patronage workers, including George Ryan’s Inspector General Dean Bauer, who needed a few extra months to be pension eligible, Mike Stout, who tried to move a division to Harrisburg in an “efficiency” move, and several others. It could be said that many of these “essential” positions served the state best when they hid out and didn’t try to do any actual “work”.

  19. - Judgment Day - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    Ok, so Bruce Rauner wants to cut the size of government. Well, if that’s the case, won’t he be in favor of having more “double exempt” positions. After all, won’t those folks be far easier to designate as “surplus” and then remove from the employment rolls?

    Maybe that’s also our current Governor’s plan if he gets re-elected and also finds that he can’t come up with the money?

    Interesting game here…..

  20. - Original Rambler - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    Mary Lee Leahy never had an issue with the number of Rutan exempt jobs in the state. In fact, she thought they should all be double or fully exempt. Shakman is slumming for the PR here.

  21. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    ==Unless they are all prosecuted==

    Prosecuted for what exactly?

    ==It is a product of having an AG who does not prosecute political corruption==

    Not the job of the AG.

  22. - Former State Employee - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:53 pm:

    Maybe Shakman should take a look at some of the other large agencies….I doubt if IDOT stands alone on this issue.

  23. - Walker - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    Shakman is obviously ridiculous to claim that the level should be 20 out of 5200, given the scope and roles within IDOT. Yet, there clearly might be too many to be rationally defended.

    A always, the reality is somewhere in between.

    The issue of which jobs should be eligible for union membership, has confounded this issue.

  24. - Arizona Bob - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    =The documents showed that in 2011 there were 369 jobs at IDOT that could be given without restriction to those with political connections. That was up from 234 in 2003.=

    Wow. that’s an awful lot of people “making policy”!LOL Of course that’s absolute nonsense. They’re classifying most managerial and technical positions as “political” because that’s where the the biggest paychecks are.

    I’m a professional engineer licensed in six states in two disciplines (mechanical and civil)and I’ve performed projects under the control of the Capital Development Board (CDB) and Chicago Public Schools.

    The CDB is prohibited from making consultant hiring decisions based upon cost (there are guidelines for fees based upon project size and complexity). If you don’t ante up at election time and have a “sponsor” to put in a good word, you don’t get the contract. They even can be exceedingly “generous” in contracts to those with the right connections. And its perfectly legal patronage.

    When I was a senior project manager working in design management for CPS in the early 2000s, we had some real stand up people who made sound decisions based on need of schools and most efficient costs. Most were holdovers from the Vallas regime.

    I did school project assessments and made recommendations based upon an objective assessment rubric I and the team had developed, and most of the time the projects we identified as priorities got funded.

    I was required to sign off on all design change orders exceeding $100K and I rejected them at about a 20:1 ratio and still kept my job. If I was a political hire, I’m sure that wouldn’t have been the case.

    We had a rooftop air handler manufacturer who’d used “clout” to get on the preferred bidder’s list, and they were getting just about every contract for the normally $30K units by selling them for about $15K. They were garbage and were falling apart within 6 months of installation.

    I wrote the evaluation report comparing their product with those of good quality, and it sure went badly for them. They got removed from the preferred list based upon my recommendation. I was deposed for three hours on the report by the manufacturer’s attorney in a law suit involving someone killed in an accident associated with a project on which these units were installed, and after my deposition they gave up trying to prove they were of “equal quality” with other bidders.

    They hired Senate President Cullerton’s law firm to “coax” us to put them back on the list, but they never got back on while I was there.

    The point here is that if I were a “political hire” the ratio of approving unjustified change orders would’ve been reversed to 20:1 APPROVAL instead of rejection, and the substandard units would still be installed in CPS schools.

    The only reason technical managers would be “political hires” would be to give payback patronage to underqualified professionals and act in the political best interests of the Governor instead of the best interests of the people of Illinois.

    It’s a dirty deal, and should be recognized aas such.

  25. - TCB - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    I just don’t understand what the AP wants. On day it’s a problem that the unions represent 95% of state employees, the next there’s articles that too many Rutan positions exist.

  26. - Original Rambler - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    AB, “make policy” is NOT the Rutan standard. It is much less than that. It used to be “meaningful input” but it is purposely kept secret by CMS.

    Shakmans 20 is comical, like when AFSCME argued that all except agency directors could be unionized.

  27. - Fore Score and Seven Holes Ago - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    I bet the “Local Community Liaisons” are pretty good golfers.

  28. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    AZ Bob,

    CDB does not award design contracts based on political contributions. As a matter of fact, if you contributed to Quinn or Brady last time, or any person affilliated with your company did, you can’t get a contract. Sheesh. Maybe it happened under Blago, but it cannot happen since the passage of SB51. Thanks for playing. Now kindly apologize to all the folks who work at IDOT or CDB.

  29. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    Affiliated, one l. Oops.

  30. - Ghost - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    Vanilla man after all, the landmark case striking down patronage is styled Rutan v pat Quinn…. oh wait a minute, its Rutan v the Republican party….

    How many people work at IDOT? They have a presence in every county. are we talking 300 out of 15,000 or 300 out of 500.

    How do you run an agency if say all of your management team were Rauner supporters and set out to sabotage your operations. it sems to me you need a decent core of people who can be expetced to be loyal to the policy makers in order to make sure policies are carried out and not sabotaged.

    as an asied. There are a number of GOP folks in those “patrongae” jobs today under Quinn, left there because they do a good job.

  31. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    === The R’s created the practice of patronage and the D’s continue it. At least IL politicos are consistent. ===

    History doesn’t begin in the 1970’s. Patronage has been practiced since the state was formed in 1818.

  32. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    Norseman, the father of American patronage was Andrew Jackson. When he took office, he bounced federal employees who’d been there since Washington.

  33. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 2:53 pm:

    == Illinois has 3,000 Rutan exempt positions for 60,000 Governor agency employees (that was the approximate headcount when Edgar became Governor), or 1 in 20.

    The President has approximately 3,000 Civil Service exempt positions for approximately 2,700,000 civilian employees, or 1 in 900. ==

    That is stunning if correct, or even remotely close to accurate.

  34. - Nieva - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    IDOT got around vets. by hiring 6 month temps. Then the temps. were allowed to join the Teamsters. With union protection they have job security for 6 months a year and then they draw unemployment for the other 6 months. Paid vacation, personal days and paid holidays are also included. Call for a list of these folks and you will see that most if not all are connected to the Democrat party as committee men or women. All most all vote D in the primary. This was supposed to be illegal after Mary Leahy sued the state in Vickery v Jones. The case ruled on in federal court and said politics could not be a factor in hiring temps.

  35. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 3:47 pm:

    Bob, study before you spout off for once. Your point on procurement was based on outdated information and the majority of the IDOT Rutan-exempt jobs added in recent years were at lower levels, not at the top, as the article says.
    Why don’t you enjoy the nice AZ weather instead of raising bogus beefs about IL that no one cares about.

  36. - Bored Chairman - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    Schneider would be a great Secretary if the Governor’s Office would let her do her job.

  37. - Leave a Light on George - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 4:43 pm:

    Agency personnel folks know how to write job descriptions to make the position Rutan exempt or not and they do so frequently to satisfy the unspoken wishes of the Gov’s office.

    The successful applicant is usually a nice person who rarely performs tasks as stated in the job description. They usually have fund raising tickets available too should you wish to purchase some.

  38. - Road dog - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 5:15 pm:

    This is directly in my wheelhouse as a 30 year retiree from IDOT. I came to work under Big Jim Thompson, Republican patronage was the order of the day but as a rule people were generally qualified for their jobs and true political types (county chairmen, etc) were given jobs with no real responsibility and not much interaction with those who actually ran the agencies. Under Gov. Edger there was a dramatic reduction in patronage hiring and promotions as he was afraid of Rutan lawsuits. When Blago took over in 2003 it was like all the patronage hiring restrictions imposed by Rutan were revoked and new job titles starting showing up and the need for P.E, certifications for civil engineers went away in some positions, liaisons were everywhere and political hacks were put into positions that had real job responsibilities for which they had no idea how to perform. The patronage train is still running full speed at IDOT and it doesn’t take a super detective to see the evidence of it. This is not hearsay, I have witnessed it all

  39. - SO IL M - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 6:35 pm:

    Im sorry but I started laughing so hard when I read the part where he tried to justify the patronage hires were absolutely necessary to spend federal money quickly and efficiently, that I couldn’t finish the rest.

  40. - Roadiepig - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 8:57 pm:

    - Road dog - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 5:15 pm:
    As a fellow 30+ year IDOT employee (now retiree) and can say you painted the picture exactly like I lived it too. The unqualified halfwits that Blago put into exempt “technical” postitions made ill advised decisions that caused problems for motorists and IDOT employees alike. Had one guy who came once a month with a clipboard and blank sheet of paper, and he wrote down any safety things he though might cause us to fail a OSHA inspection. Once a month, every month , he did a made up job. Went to the state employee salary page the last year I worked, and he made more than I did as maintainer, with my winter overtime included. These political hires during Blago were only a small amount of the total workforce, but for the most part they were the folks who made coming to work a miserable experience.

    There is waste at IDOT. Problem is, how do you stop them from doing these hires when both parties really love making them when they are in power?

  41. - Smitty Irving - Tuesday, Apr 29, 14 @ 9:00 pm:

    Formerly Known As…

    This link is from an advocacy group stating there are 5 thousand appointments, paid and unpaid. 3,000 may be right.

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* Kirk supported money to Illinois waterways......

* Ramp From Lower Wacker To LSD Closure Starts Monday
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* No political bets -- this means St. Louis won’t get Cubbie-blue cheesecake
* McHenry board cancels health insurance of striking teachers.
* Keeping retirement weird. A little place in Michigan.
* Speaker Softly and Carry a Big Stick
* Parents, Advocates Speak Out Against CPS Special Need Education Cuts
* Special education
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* Schakowsky Introduces Bill To Make Renewable Energy Tax Credit Permanent

* Board’s New Rules Will Reduce Risk of Tire Fires and Disease-Carrying Mosquitos
* Illinois Hosts Inaugural Interstate Medical Licensure Compact - Aims to increase health care access through multi-state physician licensure program
* IEMA Announces Elgin Community College Attains ‘Ready to Respond Campus’ Designation - Elgin one of five Illinois campuses to receive distinction
* New Mortgage Loan Interface Increases Efficiency, Compliance
* State Fire Marshal Ushers In Fire Prevention Week - “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep!”

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