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Inspector general’s IDOT probe places no direct blame on Quinn

Friday, Aug 22, 2014

* Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn failed to rein in patronage abuses at the state transportation agency after replacing now-imprisoned Rod Blagojevich, and Quinn’s directors repeatedly hired politically connected workers in violation of the rules, the state’s top ethics investigator found.

But read down

The report stopped well short of accusing the governor’s office of the blatantly illegal hiring practices under Blagojevich, Quinn’s two-time running mate. Meza found no evidence that Quinn’s office knew about the abuses and further noted that investigators could not demonstrate “any clear intent” by transportation officials to circumvent the so-called Rutan hiring rules that ban political considerations in most personnel matters.

* Indeed, if you read the actual report, the OIEG pretty much blames the whole thing on a handful of IDOT staffers. And those IDOT employees, the report repeatedly emphasizes, violated Quinn’s administrative order which prohibited the hiring.

And the two Transportation Secretaries in question were mainly faulted for lax oversight. Regarding Secretary Ann Schneider, the OEIG wrote

…she delegated her personnel program responsibilities such that she could no longer be an effective overseer of the Bureau of Personnel Management

Instead, most of the fault is pinned on a couple of employees, and only one of those was recommended for termination.

* But check out this chart

Sure looks like a whole lot of hiring while the governor was ramping up his campaign and passing a tax hike.

And

The inspector general’s report said dozens of the staff assistants had ties to Democrats including the top leaders of the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both of Chicago. The husband of Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, was also listed among the “staff assistant” category, although the lawmaker said she’s always known him as a project manager.

…Adding… I meant to put this in earlier, but the OEIG even documents how these people get hired…

According to Mr. Croke, if the agency has already identified a candidate that it wishes to hire into a Rutan-exempt position:

    · the agency submits an ePAR to the Office of the Governor for approval;
    · the ePAR is approved by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget;
    · the ePAR is approved by both the Deputy Chief of Staff and the Chief of Staff; and
    · the agency fills the vacancy with the desired candidate.

Yet there is no blame assigned to anyone in the governor’s office in the report. So, I suppose the “finds no direct link to Quinn” headline was a bit off. There is a link to Quinn’s top guys, just no blame assigned. So, I changed the hed.

Also, I found it odd that former chief of staff Jack Lavin and his (and still current) deputy chief of staff over IDOT weren’t interviewed by the OEIG. Seems like a missed opportunity there.

Again, however, the OIEG found nothing resembling a Pat Quinn smoking gun.

* Quinn bears overall responsibility as governor, of course, but he escaped much more blame that I figured he’d get, and he got out in front of the story yesterday

Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, stung by a federal lawsuit alleging illegal hiring amid a tough re-election campaign, announced Thursday it will eliminate 58 transportation agency jobs at the center of the dispute.

Erica Borggren, acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, announced the move along with other actions she said were necessary to restore public trust in the sprawling agency. But a spokesman for Bruce Rauner, the Republican businessman trying to unseat Quinn in November’s election, criticized the moves and questioned Quinn’s portrayal of himself as a reformer.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


36 Comments
  1. - Chicago - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:41 am:

    Ironic given PQ’s opinion of George Ryan, but isn’t that similar to what was once said about George?!


  2. - admin - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Sure hasn’t been a good week for Bruce Rauner.


  3. - OneMan - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Would have been a little more impressed if the layoffs had not happened right after the Trib called.


  4. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    === Instead, most of the fault is pinned on a couple of employees, and only one of those was recommended for termination ===

    === Sure looks like a whole lot of hiring while the governor was ramping up his campaign and passing a tax hike ===

    Buffers?


  5. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:55 am:

    A former patronage chief isn’t likely to hang a sign up saying “look here”. Those hiring patterns betray one heck of a coincidence.

    Meanwhile, Quinn sounds just like Rauner now. “I had no idea about any of that”.


  6. - Winning with Sheen - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    Quinn appoints incompetent directors who have staff members who hire political patronage jobs and then he fires them when they are caught by the Tribune….. Explain again how Quinn is not responsible.
    How many Federal Investigations are going on?
    How many corruption probes has Quinn had and how many are going on?


  7. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    Winning - So Rauner is equally responsible for nursing home deaths using your logic? I’d take responsibility for patronage over that any day.


  8. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    quinn took action and i like it, bruce wants to poke at lt and see if it festers


  9. - Winning with Sheen - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    Blago 4th term?


  10. - Anon. - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    Well, it’s pretty clear now that they’ll never be able to make a movie of Quinn’s political career. John Banner is the only actor who could have played him.


  11. - Winning with Sheen - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    Quinn could play himself, if he isn’t in jail.


  12. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    Hopefully some things that will come from all this. One would be a reform of the hiring process for Rutan-covered positions. Other commenters here have noted it takes 6 months to 1 year to fill a Rutan-covered position. Read the examples, starting on page 54 of Part 1, and notice how long the positions were vacant - sometimes 3 or more years.


  13. - Jack Lavin wears a wire - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    I wonder what happens with some of these directors if they ever get questioned by Federal Prosecutors.


  14. - Bogart - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    Not impressed with line of inquiry by inspectors and senior staff in Gov’s office. “Did you know rules were being broken?” “No, of course not” IG Findings - “cant determine Gov’s office did anything wrong”.
    Peter Sellers could do better.


  15. - Yep - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    It’s for THIS that Quinn just eliminated 58 jobs and threw 58 low-level people onto the street? Even the OEIG didn’t recommend that those people lose their jobs. The OEIG doesn’t even say that those people acted inappropriately or should be disciplined in any way. The OEIG focuses the blame on the upper level management IDOT administrators alone (and what on earth would those high-level staffers have to gain by making these patronage hires if the Governor’s office did not desire or at least approve of the hirings?)


  16. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    Good news!
    So, the only thing he can be dinged over is the fact that he didn’t reform anything after his old running mate got locked up.


  17. - Buckeye - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    Quinn’s new governing theme: “Lawbreaking by ignorance, not by intent.”

    Or perhaps a new theme for Rauner commercials.

    Either way, not good news for Quinn.


  18. - kathryn - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    Dear YEP -these so called low level people, as you call them, are making $50,000, $60,000 and up. Not exactly peanuts.


  19. - foster brooks - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    Rauner Once Called Quinn an ‘Extraordinary’ Leader


  20. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    The issue really is how the job descriptions were crafted, which is why the OEIG doesn’t blame the Governor. These were classified as rutan exempt, so the Gov’s office would naturally assume they were kosher. Once they found out there was some slight of hand on how the agency was writing them, they put a stop to it.


  21. - Darrow - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    Are we all missing something here?
    in Rutan, the US supreme Court ruled “Today we are asked to decide the constitutionality of several related political patronage practices — whether promotion, transfer, recall, and hiring decisions involving low-level public employees may be constitutionally based on party affiliation and support. We hold that they may not.”
    That is the entire decision. You can hire relatives, friends, etc., (unless you have a separate nepotism rule) and it doesn’t violate Rutan. Doesn’t come close.


  22. - Todd - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    Looks like a nice road map for the new suit to follow up on with a few depositions and such


  23. - Formerpol - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    Anne Schneider’s hypocrisy knows no bounds- she self-rightously criticized the transit agencies for alleged patronage abuses as co chair of Quinn’s brilliant transit ‘reform’ panel. All the while her office was a flagrant abuser. And the post is a pretty lame attempt to insulate ‘reformer’ Quinn from any blame here!!!


  24. - Not it - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:55 pm:

    Formerpol has a very good point.


  25. - phocion - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:10 pm:

    Rod “Reform and Renewal” Blagojevich = 174 illegal hires

    Pat “Fumigation” Quinn = 469 illegal hires


  26. - LCP45 - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:16 pm:

    Quinn has never been part of the combine…


  27. - Skeptic Cal - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    Ann Schnieder stated in her response that the vast majority of the candidates came from the Governor’s office and IDOT had no choice.
    And yet, the OEIG could not piece together any path to the Governor as sharing significant responsibility????


  28. - Ginhouse Tommy - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    I think that while Pat Quinn might have in the dark about some of this, he can’t duck all the blame. He was probably aware something was afoot, he just didn’t act. This further proves that there are no rules in hiring. Agencies hire who they want or who has connections. It’s just part of state government and no matter what law is passed it is never going to change. If you want evidence just look at the past. It is as if the people who hire have no conscience.


  29. - Anon - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    Phocion - the graph shows # on-board in December of each year, not # hired each year. Your #s are way wrong.


  30. - Winning with Sheen - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    So let’s review. Quinn is responsible and the IG didn’t do his job any where near to the degree that the Federal Govt will. 3 in a row. 3 in a row….


  31. - Bucko - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:39 pm:

    What happens to the employees initially hired as assistants and have since moved on to union protected jobs?


  32. - Working night and day.... - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    It appears that the investigators put more planning and resources towards tracking down and bringing to justice the serial “sandwich bandit” (http://capitolfax.com/2012/05/30/inspector-general-clouseau-strikes-again/) than they did on this investigation. All ePAR approvals during the time period in question came from Lavin. The fact that Lavin was not interviewed means that the Inspector General made a conscious decision early on in the investigation to place blame at lower levels within IDOT.


  33. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    == Also, I found it odd that former chief of staff Jack Lavin and his (and still current) deputy chief of staff over IDOT weren’t interviewed by the OEIG ==

    That does seem odd. Very odd.


  34. - Original Rambler - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 3:06 pm:

    I don’t think the OEIG could force Lavin to interview once he left the State.


  35. - Howdy - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 3:52 pm:

    It is plain sad that the OEIG could not connect the dots in a simple manner. The epar system went right to the Governor’s office. One would have to be incredibly unworldly to not understand what was happening. The OEIG just didn’t bother looking hard at the facts. Just sad.


  36. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 5:24 pm:

    Don’t be led down the narrow road about “staff assistants”. It’s WAY more than just that. Liasions, Deputy Directors, more Deputy Directors, Chiefs of Staff (really?), “spokesmen” who don’t know anything, etc., etc. etc.


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