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Schneider out at IDOT

Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014

* Sun-Times

The head of the Illinois Department of Transportation resigned Monday following questions about patronage hiring at the agency.

Ann Schneider’s resignation comes after longtime anti-patronage crusader Michael Shakman called for a federal judge to order an investigation into government hiring following a Better Government Association investigation that revealed Schneider’s stepdaughter had been put on the payroll and promoted at the agency.

Schneider was appointed by Quinn in 2011 to head up IDOT. The resignation could lessen a political headache for Gov. Pat Quinn during an election year.

In a news release touting her replacement with Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren, Quinn devoted one line to the outgoing department head: “I also thank Ann Schneider for her years of hard work and dedication and wish her well.”

* SJ-R

A story in mid-June by a BGA staff member raised questions about the hiring and promotion of Schneider’s stepdaughter, Ashley Carpenter. Carpenter was hired as a staff assistant and is now a data analyst with IDOT’s division of aeronautics, making just under $53,000 annually, the BGA reported. She is now covered by anti-patronage rules, meaning she cannot be fired for political reasons, the report said.

“I’m good at what I do,” Carpenter was quoted as saying.

The BGA said that in April, Schneider said she did not know about issues of political hiring involving staff assistants.

“I was under the assumption that the job descriptions accurately reflected the work that those people would be doing when they came on,” Schneider said at the time.

* Tribune

The BGA contends Quinn continued a scheme started by impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich that improperly classified nonpolitical positions as one that could be filled by political appointees. Shakman alleges that many of these hires later were promoted or transferred to unionized positions in order to make it more difficult to fire them. The attorney argues that the questionable hiring stopped in late 2011 or early 2012 when the state’s Office of Executive Inspector General began an investigation.

Quinn has said he learned of accusations of political hiring at IDOT last summer and “immediately ordered” the agency to conduct an audit, saying he has “zero tolerance for anything on hiring that isn’t exactly according to the rules.”

Despite his political outsider persona, Quinn is no stranger to patronage. After serving as an organizer for Democrat Dan Walker’s successful 1972 campaign for governor, Quinn joined Walker’s staff, where his duties included dishing out patronage as a liaison to state lawmakers.

Later, Quinn left the Illinois Industrial Commission after lawmakers launched an investigation into whether Walker had been hiding the payroll costs of governor’s office workers on state boards and commissions to make it look like the governor’s payroll had dropped.

Her replacement has no transportation experience.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:10 am:

    Management experience is fine. But how about appointing someone with transportation experience?

  2. - Down South - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:17 am:

    Jonathan Monken redux?

  3. - walker - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:18 am:

    Not that exercised about the relative if she is indeed “good at what I do” as a data analyst. And carries a full load.

    The line that gets me is: ==”Her replacement has no transportation [or construction?] experience,”==

    This clearly isn’t a move by Quinn driven by money or political clout. But it is driven by personal loyalty trumping skills and experience. IDOT is too important for that continuing practice.

  4. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Quinn is not guaranteed to be governor come January 2015. Who would want to take this job if they already work at IDOT in that condition? Why would they want to take this job, particularly if they feel they aren’t the long-term choice for director if Quinn stays as governor? Much easier to put someone in to substitute teach until the whole election thing is cleared up.

  5. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    “hiding the payroll costs of governor’s office workers on state boards and commissions to make it look like the governor’s payroll had dropped.” Which Quinn is doing too. No surprise there.

  6. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    === Her replacement has no transportation experience. ===

    Kinda says it all about this administration. Specific qualifications for a job doesn’t seem to be a big concern to them.

  7. - kathryn - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    Carpenters job was made up for her for political reasons, she bounced around idot traffic safety until thy could find a permanent spot. now you are saying she cant be fired. only in Illinois.

  8. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    I’m impressed with the timing here. The departure being announced on the day the Supremes release Harris v. Quinn and the Hobby Lobby cases.

  9. - Pete - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:41 am:


    A Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar, and the valedictorian of her West Point class, Borggren holds postgraduate degrees in comparative social policy and theology from Oxford University. She and her husband, Erik, reside in Chicago with their two children.

    IDOT HQ in Springfield to home in Chicago… and Quinn just cut the inventory of planes?

  10. - A guy... - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    Another case of “Government by Roulette” Wherever the marble lands, thee shall work there. Ugh.

  11. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    No transportation experience?

    And here I thought that PQ wanted to take criticism off the table.

  12. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    This mess at IDOT is such a sloppy mistake for Quinn to make. In almost 30 years with the state I’ve seem political hires under every governor, but there are limits to everything. IDOT is a big agency but it seems the Quinn people exceeded the normal limits on tolerance for this type of hire. Now the stuff has hit the fan.

    One more reason Pat’s unlikely to be around come January. Kind of sad to say considering the alternative, but he’s brought this on himself.

  13. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    Hopefully, she will surround herself with transportation people who know what they are talking about.

  14. - 40 years - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Dupage Dave-I’ve seen hires for 40 years. Please remember that this hiring scheme was hatched under Blago and kept going under Quinn, until it was uncovered. Between our 70 years of experience, we both know that it takes months if not years to unmask a problem in an agency. Hold over bureaucrats can be real sneaky!

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    Sad really. There are people inside IDOT who are far more qualified and have management experience. West Point and Oxford do not qualify you to be Sec. Of Transportation.

  16. - x ace - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    S J R last night gave credit to the guy who scooped the story, eh ?

  17. - sal-says - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    A Borggren bio is here.

  18. - News Flash! - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 11:59 am:

    If you think that news, the media should be knocking on the Illinois Tollway’s door in Downers Grove, Illinois. Mega patronage hiring at that agency!
    Revolving door for high priced management gigs too.

  19. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    Patronage hiring per se is not illegal.

  20. - Responsa - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    == The resignation could lessen a political headache for Gov. Pat Quinn during an election year.==

    Not sure I understand how Quinn’s being shown to have appointed the wrong person–so wrong that she had to resign under duress–and that now Shakman’s on the case, lessens a political headache for Quinn. Seems to me that publicity over his poor judgement on this hire and letting her stay on the job too long, coupled with his choosing a replacement leader for this large important agency who has no transportation experience, actually adds to Quinn’s pre-election political headache.

  21. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 12:23 pm:

    @ DuPage Dave; I think Quinn’s problem is that he’s still peeling the layers of the rotten, punky onion that Rod Blagojevich grew.

    I would also caution that people who “know something about [insert policy area here]” are not necessarily a panacea; they may be the same unimaginative, CYA bureaucrats that controlled Metra for years and hatched schemes such as making the north-side UP line in Chicago unusable for any more than two tracks, regardless of future demand, just because for them it was a case of “pressing the easy button.” That particular debacle thankfully got stopped, but “leaving it to the professionals” very often becomes a recipe for “precluding major progress that could really improve peoples’ lives, just because we either hadn’t thought outside the box or it would be too much work.”

  22. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    I’d certainly give her replacement a chance, given those creds. Rauner should too, if it comes to that.

    Patronage per se isn’t illegal and neither is nepotism, in Illinois state government. What I object to is the opportunity for those with clout to transfer into civil service and union- protected positions ahead of those applying from outside the agency, which I believe is the case. From patronage hire to job for life. Has anything really changed in Illinois? I’m glad Shakman is looking at the state govt patronage issue, but he has a big job ahead of him and he probably isn’t planning to work until he’s 100.

  23. - Ginhouse Tommy - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    Patronage is as much a part of state government as computers, printers, paper clips and filing cabinets. Politicians will say they will fight it, they will obey hiring rules, that they will hire the best person for the job but we all know that that will never happen. Unqualified, politically connected people will get the jobs no matter what. If somebody wants you, you get hired. That’s just the way it is. It’ll never change. And so it goes.

  24. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:01 pm:

    Ann Schneider has been one of the hardest working state officers in Illinois and the U.S. who really cared about her service to the Quinn Administration and to the motoring public. Ask any transportation minded person and most would agree of Schneider’s dedication, her accessibility, and in depth knowledge of the issues. We should not judge a career’s worth of integrity on one mistake, but unfortunately, its the business we’re in. Good luck to Schneider and lets give the new IDOT Sec an opportunity to succeed.

  25. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:05 pm:

    Her replacement has no transportation experience.

    Wonder how much experience Ms. Borggren has in filling job openings with people who don’t have the proper “connections”. The spotlight is on IDOT again (for the wrong reasons) ,so time will tell…

  26. - Keyser Soze - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    IDOT engineers haven’t been happy in many years.

  27. - CirularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    Hey Mitt just announced his women boosters club
    Lulu Ford makes club #2 and please ignore all the not for profits improperly mentioned

    Selected Member Biographies of Women for Rauner

    *Titles and Associations are for Identification Purposes Only*

  28. - CirularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    === Her replacement has no transportation experience. ===
    And we have a new RTA honcho who has no clue what prize he just won

  29. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    ===IDOT engineers haven’t been happy in many years. ===

    They’ve never been happy. I’ve seen surveys going back many a year and they’ve always been a grumpy bunch.

  30. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    I don’t know anything about her other than what’s been written here, but hats off to Borggren for changing jobs to help out the boss. She’s a short-termer in either job the way things are going.

  31. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 2:23 pm:

    40 years- I’ll never forget the doofus who showed up with “must hire” paperwork from the Governor’s Office (I think Thompson was in office then) and never stopped waving it around. We suggested that she have it framed and put on her office door. Mercifully after about six months she moved on to a higher-paying gig in another department.

  32. - Gantt Chart - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 2:24 pm:

    Rich, with all due respect, go back a few more years (say before 2003) to when IDOT was more of a professional engineering organization—and the political hires didn’t reach so far down into the org chart. Engineers were happier then.

  33. - kimocat - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    Gantt Charts is right. Political hiring at IDOT has been going on since forever. But the Thompson, Edgar, and even Ryan crews made sure that people in key positions had experience and knew what they were doing. That all changed with Blago.

  34. - Bob Hicks - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    Next question, where does she land? Will she be involved with IDOT engineering firms? Does revolving door apply? In Illinois, answer is probably “no”.

  35. - Natalie - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    I could not agree more with Anon. I first met Ann in 1989 when she worked with Paul Vallas at the Economic and Fiscal Commission. For more than the last two decades Ann has dedicated herself to public service. She is smart, hardworking, compassionate and deserves better than this.

  36. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 3:46 pm:

    The new boss has just as much experience as the old boss, namely none. Schneider was the DNR fiscal chief before taking the job at IDOT. Good training.

  37. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 3:53 pm:

    “hiding the payroll costs of governor’s office workers on state boards and commissions to make it look like the governor’s payroll had dropped.”

    Yawn … This has been going on at least since the Big Jim days, if not earlierm and not just at IDOT. Almost every agency has always had (a) qualified political appointees, (b) unqualified political appointees and/or (c) “ghost” employees who really worked for the Gov’s office while drawing a paycheck from some agency. Same thing has also been true for various gov office operating and equipment expenses.

  38. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    RNUG, I didn’t have anyone I knew of on my payroll at CMS who worked for the Governor’s office, and I paid close attention.

  39. - AnonAgain - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 5:00 pm:

    The real question should not be about the Secretaries step daughter but a former director of Traffic Safety’s daughter who transferred from an exempt position at the governors office to a union job at TS.

  40. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 5:07 pm:

    RNUG, your brush might be a bit broad there. I worked in two different agencies under Governors Thompson and Edgar. At the second, where I signed the payroll- and particularly under Edgar, there were no ghost employees or “loaned equipment.”

    At the other, with which you’re more familiar, we didn’t have any in my area but I wouldn’t rule it out-if any, they were gone by the time the crazy guy took over. The one piece of equipment spending that started with Walker (thank you Roland) “off-books” and may still go on today (and was no secret) is the CMS providing the vehicles used to transport the Governor and related maintenance costs via the Garage Fund.

  41. - Old Timer - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 5:11 pm:

    Someone should look at the college tuition IDOT reimbursed her stepdaughter for going to college. Also I am pretty sure she is not Ann’s only family at IDOT. Unless they have moved to other agencies.

  42. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 5:19 pm:

    It’s a wonder the State can turn the lights on in the morning without all of the old guys that comment here lol

  43. - Anon3 - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 5:36 pm:

    Well said AA, and I agree with Aon 1:01pm She is very hardworking and cares deeply for Illinois and the motoring public. She has lasted longer then almost any other Sec. of Transportation.
    There are lots of IDOT employees and alumni on this board and Rich nailed on the head!

  44. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 6:50 pm:

    My first thought upon reading Ms. Borggren’s credentials was…”what’s she doing. working for the state?”

  45. - Lincoln Lad - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 7:01 pm:

    I echo other comments on the dedication demonstrated by Secretary Schneider for years. She has routinely gone above and beyond; and only the uninformed would question her dedication and meaningful contributions. She will be missed. That said, the incoming Secretary deserves respect for tackling this enormous job, and her background demonstrates a discipline and a record of excellence that should not be diminished. These are two quality people.

  46. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 7:21 pm:

    IDOT engineers will never be happy!

  47. - Anon Today - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 7:42 pm:

    It gives me room to pause that Schneider thought some 22 year old staff assistant with no transportation background and little work experience would be a policy maker, dictate policy and be a spokesperson for IDOT. Seriously?

  48. - searchingfortruth - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 9:23 pm:

    The public wants, and deserves, minimal competence. Hiring people with no experience in the subject matter entrusted to them falls short of this mark. This is not a partisan issue. “Brownie” was in fact a clown with no experience and George W. Bush should have never hired him. The current Director of Health and Family Services in Illinois would not have been given an interview for the position, let alone the job (previous management experience 1.5 FTE’s in a Legislative office . . . .seriously???). The experience of driving on an Illinois falls a bit short of IDOT Director. Plenty of room for integrity, competence, and common sense on both sides of this isle.

  49. - VFW Lifer - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 9:48 pm:

    ==”what’s she doing. working for the state?”==

    She is known as someone who follows orders. She and the other young West Pointers Quinn has appointed are known to be and have proven to be easily manipulated by the Governor’s staff.

    Her tenure at IDVA has not been without controversy. Because not much work has been done on the Chicago veterans home, she and Quinn held a second groundbreaking. Her monthly newsletters to veterans were full of embarrassing partisan appeals to support the Governor’s ridiculous budget proposals.

    Her connection to Petraeus was useful, but no longer is, although he speechwriting skills are valuable to Quinn.

    All in all, she is a useful political tool for the governor’s staff.

  50. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 1, 14 @ 10:08 pm:

    Steve and AA,

    I know of some significant gov office costs that were covered by CMS many years ago, more than just cars. And a close family member was a “ghost” under Thompson for a few years working in one of the agencies we haven’t named yet, so I had an up close and personal peek at some of that. Maybe it wasn’t in every agency, but I knew enough people who were buried to have gotten the impression there were people in most of the larger agencies and even some of the smaller ones.

    And actually, AA, I have hard copy evidence that at least one gov’s cars were actually ordered by IDOT, then delivered to (at that time) General Services.

  51. - Mister M - Wednesday, Jul 2, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    “Patronage hiring per se is not illegal.”
    “Yawn … This has been going on at least since the Big Jim days” —
    I am amazed that otherwise astute readers can make comments that take personnel abuses so lightly. Rutan is there for a reason. There are patronage limits for a reason. When the political hacks take control of the personnel process and twist it in the furtherance of political patronage, the patronage extends far beyond the “high ranking policy-making” stipulations that are legal. It extends into core agency purposes, public safety and wise use of taxpayers’ money. Under Edgar and even Ryan, the agency was far, far more professional. The deterioration began apace under Blago and continued under Quinn. I doubt that it has stopped. Does anyone remember Quinn’s pledge to “fumigate”?

  52. - RNUG - Wednesday, Jul 2, 14 @ 8:56 pm:

    - Mister M - Wednesday, Jul 2, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    I worked in for the State starting with Ogilvie and coming forward. I’m just reporting what I observed over the years. Even the gov’s with squeeky clean reputations weren’t on issues like that. Patronage was a fact of life, even with Civil Service, even after Rutan, even after Vinson, even with unions, etc. Regardless of what the public believed about this reform or that reform, there was always a (more or less legal) way around the hiring rules at the time.

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