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Blagojevich’s doomed defense

Friday, Aug 11, 2006

As I told Capitol Fax readers this morning, the governor is basically using Robert Sorich’s failed defense strategy by attacking these two whistleblowers. First, the set-up:

Gov. Blagojevich’s office aimed Thursday to tighten a noose around two former state personnel workers cooperating with federal authorities in a probe of his administration’s hiring practices, alleging in a new legal filing they’re responsible for giving thousands of politically connected applicants special treatment in state jobs.

The governor’s office submitted thousands of names and related personnel paperwork in a filing with the Illinois Civil Service Commission, which is hearing the case of Dawn DeFraties and Michael Casey. The two say they’re being scapegoated for hiring practices passed from on high. Blagojevich has maintained they gave people with clout favorable treatment by allowing them to retake tests, among other things.

The two worked for the Central Management Services Department, handling personnel matters, before being transferred to other state jobs and then fired. They’re asking for their jobs back.

The Tribune brings it home.

Joseph Gagliardo and Gregory James, acting as attorneys for the administration, said there was nothing wrong with the governor’s office recommending or referring certain applicants for jobs.

“It goes back to them [DeFraties and Casey] being gatekeepers,” Gagliardo said. “If something isn’t appropriate, they should have said it [to officials in the governor’s office].”

But Draper said it defied common sense to think that DeFraties and Casey should have stood up to the governor’s office at the same time it was sending them job referrals.

“It’s convenient the governor’s office said they were just faxing over applications but weren’t trying to get special treatment for their people,” Draper said. “That’s nonsense.”

One of Sorich’s claims was that he never ordered anyone to hire applicants. As Daley’s patronage chief, Sorich merely recommended job candidates to the city’s various personnel directors.

Mayor Daley’s patronage office worked behind the scenes to place clout-backed candidates into city jobs by slipping lists of future “hires” to a personnel director, a key witness in the hiring scandal testified Tuesday. […]

Mary Jo Falcon, former director of personnel at the city’s Sewers Department, testified that when she took her position in 1994, she was told whom she answered to.

“My boss was the mayor’s office,” Falcon said she was told by her predecessor, Daniel Exposito.

Her contact was Robert Sorich, the man who headed the mayor’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office, she said. Sorich, along with Timothy McCarthy, John Sullivan and Patrick Slattery, are on trial accused of manipulating the city’s hiring system to reward political workers with jobs.

But Falcon said the IGA, known as the mayor’s patronage office, was intensely involved in hiring decisions in her department, where she worked from 1994 to 2005. She left after federal authorities seized computer files in her office last year. She soon began cooperating.

The Sorich defense didn’t work against testimony from people like Falcon, and I seriously doubt that this Blagojevich move will succeed. From all I can gather, there was also “intense” pressure on state personnel directors to go along with “recommendations” from the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, Krol looks at the impact any indictments could have on the governor’s race.

UPDATE: I should add that the governor’s move may or may not succeed at the Civil Service Commission. I meant whether the tactic succeeds or not with the feds.

I would bet big bucks that what they’re hoping for here is a win at the Commission so they can claim before the election that the governor and his people have been “exonerated” and that the real corruption was perpetrated by two “bad apples.” That might work in the short term. I’m talking about long term.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - BigBob - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 8:32 am:

    The Governor’s Office made referrals without any pressure and expectation that those referred would be hired. CMS employees did all this on there own without discussions with or reporting to the Governor’s Office about the status of their referrals. Well, I was born just yesterday and this defense really sounds plausable to me. Not!

    This defense will never work. According to earlier media articles, the Inspector General’s report said the Governor’s Personnel Office was illegally controlling hiring at major state agencies with utter disregard for existing law. I would bet DeFraties and Casey are sharing notes and emails with the Feds that will support the IG’s report relative to their actions.

    This is a smoke screen. If Blago was serious, he would also fire the Governor’s Personnel Office staff that engaged in the identified illegal acts.

    Governor Blagojevich, why are Mr. Cini and the others still state employees? Why are you afraid to fire these bad apples.

  2. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 8:45 am:

    Corruption stinks, and corruption from a guy who promised to end it is simply inexcusable. Blagojevich set himself up by promising us he would end business as usual and promising needed campaign reforms. He has done absolutely nothing but mock his own words. We’ve had guys like Ryan who we all knew worked the system and when he got canned, we immediately went for the Knight In Shining Armor. He has turned out to be a total fraud.

    This election is about Blagojevich. He failed and should not be re-elected.

  3. - anon - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 8:57 am:

    Ha, “intense pressure?” Many of the personnel directors were place in that position by the administration.

  4. - Shallow Pharnyx - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 9:27 am:

    I’m with DeFraties and Casey. Having worked under this administration, I can tell you their hacks are intimidating. What other motive would DeFraties and Casey have for giving thousands of politically connected applicants special treatment in state jobs? They were told to get them hired and they did. I did what I was told and I also left the state cause the showers just could not shake the slime off.

  5. - anonymous - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 9:37 am:

    I”m not an attorney, but how dumb is this accusation and the gov’s defense? Two worker bees had thousands of friends they helped get state positions? And the gov had no involvement…we can only hope the gov just handed over what the feds need to nail him good, and soon. Only political machines have this many “friends”. DeFraties and Casey are two good people forced into servitude in order to continue to be able to support their families. Listen to the comments of the state employees of this and other blog sites. Blago has ruled by instilling fear and intimidating state employees. But this case really takes that to the extreme.

  6. - Still Anon - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 9:47 am:

    There’s another little nuance here. Shame on the agency directors who didn’t demand only qualified hires. The best director I ever worked for was the one who routinely said to the G’s office “I’ll interview anyone you send, but the last word has to be mine.” Out of all those candidates surely there were some who could do the jobs well - I can name several, can you?

  7. - Yvette - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 9:59 am:

    Um, agency directors *did* demand qualified hires. But the governor’s people said, no, hire my people instead. The story is with the smaller agencies. Look at the smaller, “under the radar” agencies for rampant examples of this.

  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 10:09 am:

    I like Dawn Defraties, so I mean this as no offense to her: if she had 2,000 politically connected friends, she’d be an alderman right now and her husband a state representative.

    That said, Dawn is no idiot, and I’d bet the house that she has a file a foot thick on everyone who ever “recommended” a candidate to her. They are trying to throw the wrong person under the bus.

  9. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 10:10 am:

    You’d win that bet, YDD

  10. - DOWNSTATE - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 10:17 am:

    i heard she made copies of everything so she might of realized what she was working with and needed a little insurance.I also heard she wore a wire but that was a little unrelable but I guess with this bunch anything goes.

  11. - Wigand - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 10:39 am:

    YDD, you are correct. Maybe it’s from having to many people thrown under it, but the wheels are coming off of this bus, and a number of the drivers are on the verge of getting what they’ve got coming to them.

  12. - Anony - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 10:42 am:

    (20 ILCS 415/7c) Members of the Civil Service Commission in office at the time of the effective date of this Act shall continue in office until the expiration of the terms for which they were appointed. Their successors shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate for terms ending 6 years from the date of expiration of the terms for which their predecessors were appointed, except that a person appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of a 6 year term shall be similarly appointed for the remainder of the unexpired term.

    So, how many of the current members were appointed by Blago?

  13. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 11:27 am:

    One of the members is Rod’s babysitter.

  14. - Bubs - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 12:49 pm:

    I think Eric Krol has it right. An indictment of Blago anytime soon is a fantasy, even if he is guilty of something. The Feds carefully work their way up the food chain, conviction by conviction, and they have all the time in the world.

    An indictment of Cini, Rezko, etc. is still a possibility before Nov. 7. But I’ve never heard a peep that they are offically targets, etc.

  15. - Bubs - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 12:51 pm:

    On second thought, $700,000 plus in Blago legal bills certainly indicates that SOMETHING is up.

  16. - Little Egypt - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 1:24 pm:

    YDD - I would have to correct you on one thing. The foot thick file is now in the possession of the FBI and her attorney has a copy. I don’t think Dawn would keep evidence like that anywhere for it to be found, such as in a break-in.

    I’d like to know the members of the Civil Service Commission and what allegiance they have to GoverNOT Hairdo. Anon 11:27 says one member is Rod’s babysitter but who are the others and can we count on them giving an unbiased, objective, truthful, above board opinion, free from interference of the GoverNOT’s office? If the SSC rules in favor of the Gov on this one, I’d be real skeptical that it was a decision free from intimidation. I really don’t think GoverNOT Hairdo can win with this one - no matter what the decision. The press will be all over him if it comes down in his favor. This whole thing is beginning to reek.

  17. - Tollway Insiders - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 2:07 pm:

    Let refresh everyone’s memories!

    The two main areas of investigation are politics as usual (pay-to-play) and political patronage hiring (Rutan violations).

    1. USA V. CARI – Pension fraud and “pay to play” affecting the Teachers’ Retirement System. Indictment and plea agreement affecting Joe Cari identifies the Governor as Public Official A.
    2. RUTAN 1 – Office of the governor. Subpoenas for political hiring.
    3. RUTAN II – Blagojevich’s Department of Children & Family Services. Subpoenas for political hiring
    4. RUTAN III – Blagojevich’s Department of Corrections. Subpoenas for political hiring.
    5. RUTAN IV – Blagojevich’s Department of Transportation. Subpoenas for political hiring.
    6. RUTAN V – Illinois State Toll Highway Authority – 6 workers claim they were fired/let go for political reasons.
    7. RUTAN VI – Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency – being sued for Rutan violation in whistleblower action for improper discharge.
    8. RUTAN VII – Illinois Department of Transportation – job-rigging charges affecting Joseph Cini – head of Governor’s office of Intergovermental affairs.

    How many? No one knows for sure.

  18. - Little Egypt - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 2:24 pm:

    Thanks Tollway Insiders. It’s good to have a running list of subpoenas.

  19. - Madame Defarge - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 2:48 pm:

    missing computers and cell phones at DPH

  20. - Bob Greenlee - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 2:54 pm:

    Why is that bus coming my way??? Is that you Joe? Is it, could it be, is that you Dawn???? Please, please, don’t throw me under the bus, please!!!

    Moderator: It’s too late Bob…’s too late!! Maybe, just maybe, if you stopped screwing with people the bus will pass you by……..Naaaaahhhhh!

  21. - Anon. - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 2:55 pm:

    Dawn isn’t the only state employee who has taken valuable information home. There are many employees who have to get their hands dirty or risk losing their jobs, or being retaliated against.

  22. - Say it ain't so - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 3:08 pm:

    Blogo, you promised it would be better!!! Oh gosh, did we fall for that silly promise. How dumb of us hayseeds. Oh, in case you’re wondering what I think about your breaking your promise, I’ll blow you a kiss if I’m on your jury!!!

  23. - NumbersGuy - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 3:36 pm:

    YDD, you are spot on today. How about this; Would you bet by the time it’s all over that there are more than 2,200 cooperating State employee witnesses in the collective Blagojevich investigations?

    PS: Tollway, nice list, but you missed a couple.

    -USA v. Levine: Fraud, Bribery, etc. surrounding the Health Care Facilities Authority.

    -”HealthGate”: CMS. Bidrigging of State healthcare contracts and how “Health Maintenance Organization A” mysteriously fell off the approved list after they forgot to attend a Blago fundraiser.

  24. - Shallow Pharnyx - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 5:39 pm:

    Bob Greenlee-
    Please contact me (through Rich, if he is willing). We probably know each other.

  25. - Cat - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 5:54 pm:

    Tollway - I thought that the Feds were looking at some contract rigging issues - maybe at IDOT…. Isn’t that why all the original signed contracts were sent to a Chicago law firm? Anybody know?

  26. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 11, 06 @ 5:56 pm:

    OK, everyone. Go out and play. I’m going back to the Fair. Comments are closed for the weekend. :)

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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