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“Classic political puffery”

Monday, Jan 30, 2006

Most of you have probably seen this already, but I thought you might want to discuss it here.

Facing lawsuits from fired prison officials who say Gov. Rod Blagojevich broke his pledge to keep good employees, lawyers for the state offered a surprising defense: His promises were “classic political puffery.”

In a political year, the premise that Blagojevich made promises he didn’t intend to keep could be troublesome for the governor to explain. But the puffery defense proved to be a sound legal strategy. […]

The administration argued successfully to dismiss allegations in some of the cases, which maintained that some of Blagojevich’s public statements constituted an offer of extended employment to the prison officials. One of the Blagojevich statements was reported in the State Journal-Register, the Springfield paper.

“We’re not looking to purge state government of different men and women who are hired during Republican administrations,” Blagojevich said in August 2003. “I would say to the men and women working in state government that, if they’re doing a job necessary for the public and doing it well, they have nothing to fear from this administration.”

The state, in multiple cases, argued that “it is clear that the classic political puffery relied upon by plaintiff cannot give rise to liability for the state.”

The state argued that Blagojevich’s statements weren’t clear enough for any employee to believe they constituted an offer. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the governor on that issue in the case of Kibby-Brown, but she was allowed to proceed on the patronage count and other matters.

Three cases, including the one brought by Pierson, have been dismissed outright by the federal appeals court but the workers are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - Anon - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 3:17 pm:

    Sounds like someone is talkin’ smack. Petty, hateful, gossip.


  2. - Ron - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 3:17 pm:

    will be interesting to see how blago is treated by some of these employees, if he ends up in jail.


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 3:18 pm:

    Jenny, you’re now in “time out” for a week because of that idiotic comment.


  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 3:32 pm:

    Hmmmm…sounds like the courts are saying in fancy way that politicians words are essentially meaningless…Who’d a thunk it?


  5. - DOWNSTATE - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:11 pm:

    I think the courts said what we already knew.Everything that comes out of this governor’s mouth is garbage.


  6. - B Hicks - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:12 pm:

    Amazing, Donny Snyder and Republican crew set the playing field when it comes to canning wardens and assistant wardens.

    Most of the wardens and assistant wardens involved in the suit were placed in their institutions in place of a warden that got the axe.

    Also, Ray should have mentioned all of the old players that are still on board. Several were promoted and several were left alone.


  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:24 pm:

    I enjoy beatin up on balgo as much as the next guy but… I think the point is that an elected official’s public statements don’t create an employment contract. That seems like a fair point. I suppose his lawyer’s choice of words could have been better.


  8. - CrossOver Dem - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:34 pm:

    Whadda ya’ think chances of THAT ending up in a political ad are? “According to a spokesman for the Governor, promises made by Rod Blagojevich aren’t MEANT to be believed!” And it will play over and over and over and over again. How does the Guv respond to that??


  9. - "B Team" - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 4:59 pm:

    blogo’s lawyers admitted in court and he is a lying bag of manure. Finally it is in the record that arod lies and is anybody surprised?


  10. - B Hicks - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 5:17 pm:

    By the way, two of the former corrections employees now work for the Treasurer’s office. Oh, but I’m sure that they were hired on because of their resume and work ethic. It wouldn’t have anything to do with their politics—the so-called reason that they were fired from corrections. One was a warden and the other was inter-governmental liaison for corrections.

    That Judy is a nice person, or maybe just business as usual.


  11. - Reddbyrd - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 6:05 pm:

    Funny the Trib never gave this kinda play to their legal problems with the IRS over the LA TImes tax scam….$750 million! But hey if AccordianGal and Esquared can’t run a campaign. Team Tribune will do it for awhile.


  12. - Norseman - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 6:21 pm:

    What a hoot! I doubt that it will happen, but I would love to see a very humorous ad highlighting the fact that the Governor’s lawyers says his promises are political puffery.

    Gives new meaning to the phrase, “puff piece.” Now defined as a promise from Blago.


  13. - cynically anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 6:34 pm:

    Ya gotta love it. Two months before the primary and nine months before the general, the gov’s opponents are handed a catch phrase by his own legal team. Apparently “no more business as usual” was just political puffery.


  14. - caveinrocker - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 6:43 pm:

    I along with alot of other people wish they would have fired the rest of the “qaulified”(geez)higher ups in Jan of 2003. If they are so “qaulified” there are 49 other states and the Federal system they should send aps too.


  15. - Papa Legba - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:21 pm:

    This decision seems to be a major cop out by the courts. I guess the justices respect the First Amendment so much that it is OK for politicians and candidates to not have to bother with the truth.

    I didn’t read in the story that there was even a generic admonishment to all candidates to stop playing so fast and loose with the lying.

    Since it was brought up by Blago’s team, can we call it puffoonery?


  16. - Wise to the Ways - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 8:40 pm:

    Any AW or Warden that took the job under Snyder who was unsure as to his/her status is an idiot. Wake up cry babies…that’s why they call it double exempt. You serve at the whim of the director and governor. Not a policy maker….yes you were. Nice try though. Clever legal trick.


  17. - Old Elephant - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:00 pm:

    Let’s connect a few dots here.

    The Governor’s own lawyers say his pre-election statements are “political puffery.” Meanwhile, the same Governor is traveling all around the state making pre-election promises to build roads and schools, including in downstate and suburban areas. And legislators are supposed to believe that those promises aren’t “political puffery?”

    Looks like the Governor’s lawyers have just handed legislators one more reason not to vote for any construction bonding before the election.

    Let’s see. We had Keno for Kids. Then it was revealed that his close buddies and campaign contributors were going to profit from expanded gambling. On top of that, his office makes up job creation numbers that are downright silly. (claiming his $3 billion program will create 10 times as many jobs as every private and public employer in the entire state has created in the past three years).

    Now, his attorneys tell the world not to believe what he says before an election. Since credibility has always been the major hurdle for any construction program, I’d say we won’t be seeing any capital program anytime soon.


  18. - Fighting Ennui - Monday, Jan 30, 06 @ 10:59 pm:

    “You said you were gonna keep in touch with the guys in the band, Elwood; you LIED to me!”

    “Naw Jake, I was just ‘Bull####’ing ya a little. You know, to keep you goin’ while you was in da joint. I knew you couldn’t take da truth, so I bull####ed you a little. For yer own good.”

    I guess from now on, if we want to know what’s true coming out of his mouth, Cheryl or Seth will have to stand behind him with a mirror so we can see if he’s got his pinkie finger crossed. Edwin and Judy, you HAVE to speak out about this, for crying out loud! I know; on the Guv’s TV news stories we can add a “puff-ometer” in the lower left corner, to tell us how much we should believe at any point in time.

    Did anybody sue him yet over the pledge “not to balance the budget on the backs of working people”? Somebody call Ron Kanowski, because the entire State of Illinois is qualified for the class action suit on THAT claim.


  19. - Jim in Maine - Tuesday, Jan 31, 06 @ 6:00 am:

    I worked in DOC for nearly ten years - back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s - many of them in Personnel when Mr. Franzen and Mr. Lane were the Directors. It was clearly understood by each and every person who accepted a Warden’s (or a Superintendent of a Juvenile institution) position, that he or she was serving in that position at the pleasure of the Director. This authority was an extension of the Director acting as the Governor’s designate. This practice continued to be applied to these positions under Rutan as these positions clearly were policy-level positions and served as spokespersons. Let us not forget that many of these institutions were larger then numerous small agencies, boards and commissions.

    As anyone who knows me knows, I am not a fan of this current administration and I do believe that the incumbent Governor is making many tremendous mistakes that will handcuff the State of Illinois for years to come. But I do know that the positions of Warden are positions that should serve at the pleasure of the Governor (or his or her designate, i.e., the Director). I also believe that the Director could and should take the moral of the workforce in mind and where an employee is being removed from a Rutan-exempt position for reasons other then cause, efforts should be made to place that person in another position for which he or she is qualified and would serve as an asset to the agency. This latter belief is a moral rather then a legal belief.

    Finally, is anyone really surprised that the Governor’s spokespersons had to acknowledge that if his lips are moving, he may well be lying? Or that the courts have apparently concurred that this is a fact …


  20. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 31, 06 @ 1:08 pm:

    When Tim Martin was appointed IDOT’s Secretary of Transportation in 2003, he sent out a letter to all employees basically expressing the same “puffery” statements Blogo made. Employees felt they could trust him - man of his word. Then bam - long term rutan exempt employees were terminated and replaced the next day with his political hacks. He is also full of “puff”. You should not terminate long term employees with vast job knowledge from positions especially during a time of early retirements. Martin should of done the honorable thing and moved these people into other positions. Corrections should have done the same. As a taxpayer, I would much prefer a warden/asst. warden with 20+ years of experience than someone off the street with no experience at all. What a shame.


  21. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Jan 31, 06 @ 3:36 pm:

    Thanks to Jim in Maine, who I think says it well.
    Any employee who takes an exempt or four-year term position knows the risks, or should. They serve either at the pleasure of the guv, or at the pleasure of the guv every four years.

    I believe that Blago and his staff came into state government really believing that the exempt positions were filled with Republican political hacks who would be conspiring against them out in the trenches. After all, that’s the way Mayor Daley and his political aides think.
    If a few good or at least innocent people get tossed out with the hacks…tough. That’s what they signed up for. After all, everybody knew there was an election coming up and that there are changes if a new party gets into power. That’s actually not an unreasonable approach if you come out of the Chicago political scene.

    This was a very silly lawsuit. And insulting to those of us who don’t work in state govt (but have to pay for it) and for whom permanent job security is an antique concept.

    I disagree with Jim in Maine that the exempt employees should get another, permanent state job although I bet that’s what will happen if
    Blago’s exempts start believing he might lose.
    Instead, they should join the real employment world.


  22. - Papa Legba - Tuesday, Jan 31, 06 @ 5:07 pm:

    For those of you who are commenting on happenings in DOC you are rather myopic. I understand that people get “changed out” when there is a new administration, but the fact is Blago’s legal team admitted and the courts affirmed that our Gov is a lier. Additionally the courts pretty much said its OK to lie to anyone and everyone if you are a candidate running for public office. A reprehensible, disgusting decision.

    Any thoughts on this? Anyone care? How does that make you feel about the Puffoon in the governors office?

    puffery = hype = lying. Look it up.


  23. - evil terry - Tuesday, Jan 31, 06 @ 10:30 pm:

    I agree totally with my friend from Maine- and I also work for IDOC. Everyone in those job titles were well aware that they could be displaced at the whim of the Director (or Governor).

    The huge difference here, people, were that they were overwhelmingly Correctional professionals- up through the ranks- the majority starting at their local prison and moving up the ranks into leadership positions.

    The other issue was when Wardens or Asst. Wardens were “pushed out” or removed- they were rarely simply fired. They were sent back out to the field- and were allowed to get additional experience or to simply realize that they had reached as high as they were going to get.

    With this new administration, they were fired- given virtually no posibilities of continuing on with their chosed profession. Then to add insult to injury- they were replaced with political hacks (ex sheriffs, music teachers, power plant operators, democratic county chairman with no experience)- and they get to watch their friends and family get put into situations that are dangerous and unwarrented at the various prisons.

    As for Cassandra- your lack of knowledge is truly scary. The trouble is- it’s people like you that this current Governor and administration have hired into the prison system in leadership roles- unqualified, inexperienced, and clueless. If you were to come to work with me for a week- you wouldn’t believe any longer that we are “overstaffed” and/or “they should join the real employment world”. What we do is protect your “little world” from the violent element of this society. Get a life.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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