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*** UPDATED x1 - “Willful misreading” *** Duckworth: “I screwed up”

Friday, Jul 31, 2015

* From the Illinois Republican Party…

In an email to her former colleagues, Rep. Tammy Duckworth admitted to wrongfully terminating a whistleblower. As Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs under Governor Rob Blagojevich, Duckworth fired a whistleblower and then admitted that she “screwed up” in firing her. In the same email, Duckworth asked her subordinates for help in justifying the wrongful termination.

“Rep. Duckworth fired a whistleblower and then admitted her wrongdoing to her co-workers. Instead of correcting her mistake, Duckworth doubled down on her poor decision and asked her subordinates to justify her misconduct,” said Nick Klitzing, Executive Director of the Illinois Republican Party. “Illinois needs leaders who stand accountable for their actions and who right wrongs, not compound them.”

* The e-mail…

*** UPDATE *** From Matt McGrath at the Democratic Party of Illinois…

“In a week when Mark Kirk was encouraged to drop out of the race by Gov. Rauner’s finance chair and called the Republican Senate majority’s ‘weak link,’ it’s understandable that he and his political allies are desperately trying to change the subject. In this instance they’re pinning their hopes on a willful misreading of a single element of a years-old lawsuit that already has been dismissed in full or in part three separate times. Illinois voters will see this for what it is: the politics of desperation from a badly struggling campaign.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    Never in writing. Ever.

    Never ever. Emails never seem to help.

    Of course, never firing a whistleblower to begin with makes this email moot, but I digress…

  2. - Not Alan Keyes - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:17 am:

    Probably released this earlier than they wanted because of all the bad news.

  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:19 am:

    One fair reading of the e-mail is that the employee was fired first instead of being placed on “disciplinary leave” whatever that is.
    Not so clear that this is admission that the employee should not have been fired.
    It may show incompetence. Agency directors should have good HR people handle these things.

  4. - Niles Township - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:19 am:

    The ad is simple, title it “I screwed up” and keep putting those words up with a grainy image of Duckworth. “In these dangerous times, Illinois and America, can’t afford a screw up.”

  5. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:21 am:

    She doesn’t seem to be saying she screwed up for getting rid of the whistleblower, just in the administrative sequence of how it should be done. Ready, fire, aim (i.e., tell me why I did what I did)

  6. - Greyhound - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:23 am:

    Seems like she is saying she didn’t follow proper procedure, not that the firing itself was wrong. A small difference that no one will care about.

  7. - Gooner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:24 am:

    So the right thinks that not firing a bad employee is a winning strategy?


    I thought the right hated union contracts that made it difficult to fire bad people and instead made management jump through all sorts of hoops first.

  8. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:25 am:

    If we’re throwing this stuff around at the end of July 2015, we’re in for a LONG election cycle.

  9. - Gooner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:25 am:

    That being said, Oswego is right.

    Never in writing. Also, never on the phone.
    Call people into the office and do it face to face.

  10. - Ghostbusters - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:31 am:

    It will make for grinding, unfair and ineffective ads all throughout 2016.

    So will all the hot mic comments Sen. Kirk has said.

    The response should be simple and consistent - ‘I have already discussed why that employee should have been placed on disciplinary leave for _____. Now, contrast my openness and my history of sacrifice in service with Mark Kirk’s lies about his military record, constant verbal gaffes and lack of confidence from his own party. Clearly he has no believable reason for anyone to even think about voting for him.”

  11. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    “Car service”?

  12. - Happy Gun Owner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:37 am:

    No one ever said anything about this employee being a bad employee.. Tammy fired her because she was a whistle blower - since when does a whistle blower = a bad employee?

  13. - Gooner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:39 am:

    Happy Gun Owner,

    Great to see you have heard all the evidence and reached your decision.

    Tammy sure seemed to think it was a bad employee.

  14. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:40 am:

    Duckworth admits to firing her instead of following progressive discipline procedures. She wouldn’t have admitted that if she thought the email would appear in the media. Good for Duckworth that she didn’t put anything in the email about the whistleblowing; that may indicate that there’s no big issue here.

    Where is this whistleblower by the way? Perhaps gagged by legal settlement? That’s how this gets worse for Duckworth, if that whistleblower speaks convincingly and publicly.

  15. - A guy - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:40 am:

    Tammy was susceptible to this kind of thing because she never had the training or background for such a high level job at the time. If anything, a deputy should have been closer to the action, which is usually the case when someone gets kicked upstairs for political reasons.
    This will haunt, because it’s her saying two things: I screwed up and we need to cover this up.

    Adage is as old as the hills. It’s not the miscue, it’s the cover up. This isn’t good and I suspect there might be a few more of these types of written self-damaging testimonials.

  16. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    ==Tammy fired her because she was a whistle blower - since when does a whistle blower = a bad employee? ==
    Where do you see proof in that email that Duckowrth fired the employee for being a histleblower? If Duckworth thought that email was going to remain private, she might’ve included a line about that.

  17. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:45 am:

    ==she never had the training or background for such a high level job at the time.==
    I’m not sure that most political appointees have the training or the background for the high level jobs they receive; Duckworth is hardly unusual. And Duckworth was an officer in the army and was Lt. Col. in the National Guard. So she probably had more leadership experience than many political appointees.

  18. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:47 am:

    I wonder how the republicans got the email. If whoever leaked it to the republicans knows more about the whistleblower/firing status of the employee, Duckworth could be in more trouble.

  19. - OneMan - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    Suspect it is in the discovery for the lawsuit that is going on.

  20. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:54 am:

    I think some people may be missing the point.

    IDOT found itself in serious trouble and was sued for employee discrimination. That court battle was nasty, expensive and wound up costing the state millions of dollars in payouts to the aggrieved parties. Several employees got their jobs back, and those who went elsewhere were given severance packages and backwages. It was a mess from start-to-finish.

    Is this the same? No, but it shows a high level of incompetence from the Blago days. IDOT’s higher-ups left paper trails, too, and those were just as damning as the actual firings. And, as with any agency, the buck stops at the director and his or her top staff. These kinds of shenanigans can be lethal to the brilliant career of Congresswoman Duckworth.

  21. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:54 am:

    ==I wonder how the republicans got the email. ==

    Since it’s her State email, it’s public record.

  22. - The Whole Truth - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:56 am:

    Anon 10:33AM-
    I’ve the same question. What does “Car Service” in the subject line have to do with the subject at hand?

  23. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    Echoes of George Ryan with the exception of the mea culpa.

  24. - A guy - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    Robert the B, I’ve stipulated to the fact political appointees are often unqualified, which is why most have a seasoned deputy in place to help avoid these kinds of things; especially personnel matters. Her credentials were much less then than they are now and she literally had no professional job experience of any kind at that time.

    I like her. Always have. Got to know her in her first Congressional race. I was on the other side. Saw her and spoke to her often. She was a very sweet person with a winning bubbly personality and a wonderful attitude, especially since she had gone through so much immediately before that race. But I can assure you that in just a few minutes, anyone could tell she had no work experience of any kind in the world outside of the National Guard. She was mostly a student.

    Most political appointees would be many steps ahead of where she was at that time. This is a rookie mistake she made. Trying to cover it was even more rookie. Her department let her down, but she was the petty one here. It’s not nothing friend.

  25. - Tibicen - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    I used to work for the State of Illinois. An Assistant AG I worked with suggested never putting anything in an E-mail that I would not want to read out loud in open court in front of the person the E-mail was about. It served me well.

  26. - Stones - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:09 am:

    It’s easy to screw up when you deal with problem employees. Some bad behavior merits immediate termination regardless of the tenants of progressive discipline. All that being said, an initial read of the Duckworth’s email seems to suggest this employee’s termination is at best a borderline case. I suspect we’ll see this over and over through the election cycle.

  27. - OneMan - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:15 am:

    Yes, because we know the Democrats would never take something out of context…

  28. - Retired Colonel - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:18 am:

    With the seeming public adulation for a Donald Trump type politician, Tammy may be well served by saying, “You’re fired!”.

    Plus, it shows decisive leadership.

  29. - The Velour Nail - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    Tibicen — wise advice.

  30. - Just Me - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    I have zero tolerance for public officials that want to fire those that expose corruption or waste in their administration. Zero.

    This is why the names of whistleblowers should remain anonymous.

  31. - Wake Up! - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    Where do you see proof in that email that Duckowrth fired the employee for being a whistleblower?
    I don’t. What I do see is that the decision maker who terminated the employment is not able to articulate, on her own, the justification for why the person was terminated. That is suspicious.

  32. - Call Me Crazy - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    The best that Duckworth, Durbin and the DSCC can hope for is that Kirk stays in the race and he continues to make crazy statements to the point of becoming 2016s Todd Akin.Without that Tammy is a weak and vulnerable candidate in a high profile statewide and national race who could lose in an avalanche of Citizens United-fueled ads tying her to Blago, Quinn, etc.

  33. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    Yeah. When I have seen Duckworth speak, my general impression is she is not trustable at all. Still better than Kirk, but not by much. It seems like every six years with this Senate seat, there are poor choices….

  34. - Arizona Bob - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    Interesting. An obviously unqualified and incompetent Tammy Duckworth fires an employee and is asking for her subordinate to come up with reason for her firing outside of departmental procedure? Wow.

    Will someone please explain to me why this woman should have ANY position of authority or responsibility that requires brains and competence instead of being a hero for being a wounded warrior?

    She made a tremendous sacrifice for our country, and we owe her for that. A lot of veterans, however, sacrificed just as much or more and probably are more deserving of high office. Electing her would be a massive mistake for the state and country.

    I wish her well..OUT of elective or governmental office.

  35. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    Rob Blagojevich?

  36. - How Ironic - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    @ Wake Up!

    “What I do see is that the decision maker who terminated the employment is not able to articulate, on her own, the justification for why the person was terminated. That is suspicious.”

    1. Depending upon where the termination occurred, it’s very likely there need NOT be a ‘justification’ for termination. Illinois is one such state, also known as an ‘at will’ State.

    2. Even if #1 doesn’t apply, there would be no need or reason to include such justification in the email as prepared. The content of the email implies that the procedure for termination wasn’t followed correctly, but not that the termination in and of itself was incorrect.

    Your suspicions are needless. People get terminated all the time. Sometimes for cause, sometimes not.

  37. - Gooner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:35 am:

    The fact that the GOP drops this now rather than in October 2016 shows either that they think Tammy is about to open an unbeatable lead (a year and a half before the election) and are desperate to block her from getting the nomination or 2)they are really bad at politics.

    Probably both.

    Why waste this now?

  38. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:38 am:

    How - but you can’t fire whistleblowers. That’s about the only real “protection” that “at will” employees have. Legislative and executive officer staffers receive such protection, and so do Rutan-exempt staffers.

  39. - Retired Colonel - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    A while back I actually took the time to read the original complaint.

    There is no whistleblowing about corruption or fraud alleged. It is literally a “she said-she said” situation. The “whistleblower” was upset that a female colleague was promoted/given responsibility when the “whistleblower” thought she deserved it herself. Trash talk ensued. Apparently, the “whistleblower” couldn’t let it go and was being insubordinate.

    Enter Tammy Duckworth. Decisive leader takes action.

    Then Tammy runs into CMS code. Lawsuit ensues.

    This thing is what, 8 years old? If there was any merit to anything in it, it would have settled long ago.

  40. - Louis G. Atsaves - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:44 am:

    Difference between a hot mike comment and this email? Very little. Both are smoking guns. Case is still kicking around court for a reason.

  41. - Gooner - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 11:47 am:

    “Case is still kicking around court for a reason.”

    Probably because it is a he said/ she said which makes summary judgment impossible.

  42. - Wordslinger - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    Louis, what’s the “smoking gun” and for what?

  43. - Anon - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:08 pm:

    if it’s dismissed, why is it going to trial? and please mr. mcgrath, tell me how you read that email?

  44. - Wordslinger - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:22 pm:

    Wake Up, you’re making things up. She’s asking for the documentation of the reasons for wanting to fire formatted for a presentation.

    Nothing in that email suggest she doesn’t know or cannot articulate the reasons.

  45. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:26 pm:

    ==What I do see is that the decision maker who terminated the employment is not able to articulate, on her own, the justification for why the person was terminated. That is suspicious.==

    We see what we want to see sometimes. I just see her asking for documentation, not for the reasoning. And I certainly don’t see in that email a panicked admission of firing the person for being a whistleblower, and needing to come up with a reason.

    Firing people isn’t fun, I’ve only had to do it a few times. Every time, there’s been good reasons, and every time, documenting the reasons has been the tricky part.

    But don’t mistake me for a Duckworth apologist. I am absolutely open to more evidence that she fired a whistleblower. I just don’t see the email as that evidence.

  46. - Wordslinger - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:55 pm:

    – I like her. Always have.–

    So much so that with no evidence at all you accuse her of engaging in a “coverup” of……. what?

    And I’d say piloting a helicopter in a combat zone qualifies as significant “work experience.” Only the most shallow of partisans would be so dismissive.

  47. - Lycurgus - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:59 pm:

    Goner @ 11:35

    Why does the GOP drop this now? My guess would be that they looked at what might happen with the litigation, and determined that this is the best time to play that card. If Duckworth should win in court later on, this won’t be worth much. On the other hand, if the State ends up settling the case, or if they lose the case outright, Kirk gets to play the card again, only harder. Makes perfect sense to me playing that card now.

  48. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    ==And I’d say piloting a helicopter in a combat zone qualifies as significant “work experience.”==

    If she were running for U.S. Helicopter Pilot, it would be significant work experience. Bruce Rauner also has signicant work experience, but that does not seem to qualify him as a good governor.

  49. - A guy - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 1:28 pm:

    === Wordslinger - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 12:55 pm:

    – I like her. Always have.–

    So much so that with no evidence at all you accuse her of engaging in a “coverup” of……. what?

    And I’d say piloting a helicopter in a combat zone qualifies as significant “work experience.” Only the most shallow of partisans would be so dismissive.===

    Lose the cheap shots. No one is dismissing her service record or training there.

    The email of her own states the obvious- “I screwed up”.

    Then she asks for help to backfill the flawed process from an associate. No more, no less.

    She’s a wonderful woman. My own opinion is that she’s not even that enamored with serving in Congress. I come to this opinion through personal experience with her. She’s been pushed into this her entire public service career. I can tell you that she would be very good at a lot of things. The biggest shame is the injury. I have no doubt she would have loved being a real lifer in the service. I’m positive she’d tell you she preferred her time in the Guard to her time in DC. In the military, there are few issues dealing with someone who is not doing their job according to the book. That’s a style she’s probably a lot more fond of.

  50. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 1:35 pm:

    ===Difference between a hot mike comment and this email? Very little. Both are smoking guns. Case is still kicking around court for a reason. ===

    Well, aside from the fact that this happened years ago, while Kirk’s stroke-addled verbal judgment centers will probably kick loose another gaffe or two before Halloween.

  51. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 2:44 pm:

    That is going to hurt. Her own words, not off the cuff but considered and chosen before sending, admit she improperly fired an employee under her supervision. Why? Was she angry at the employee? Incompetent? Didn’t think the rules applied?

  52. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 2:47 pm:

    Sounds Blago-esque.

  53. - Loop Lady - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    Always liked Duckworth…hope she really wants this cuz it will be a very ugly bruising campaign…

  54. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Jul 31, 15 @ 4:11 pm:

    That’s it? Listening to all the GOP hubub I figured this would be really bad. Essentially she “screwed up” by firing her instead of putting her first on leave. Umm, yeah. You guys base your campaign against a war hero on that thin gruel. Good luck with that!

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