A telling moment in the Trib interview:
On one hand, the governor said he doesn’t believe voters perceive his administration as suffering from ethical lapses. On the other hand, Blagojevich acknowledged a need to avoid negative perceptions of favoritism when he instructed his budget director in 2003 to not give any of the state’s $10 billion pension bond business to a firm that had retained a close friend.
He said he knew John Wyma, a close adviser and his former congressional chief of staff, was representing Lehman Bros. in the sale.
“The last thing I wanted was anybody close to me even remotely near something like that. And so, the only thing I told [John] Filan, our budget director … was, `Pick the best company, but if it’s Wyma’s firm or anybody close to me, we don’t want them,’” Blagojevich said.
“I think I acted beyond what I’m supposed to do because I just knew that that was a situation [in which] I didn’t want the folks close to me to be involved in that,” the governor said.
Asked why he didn’t require that the same hands-off policy apply to all aspects of his administration, Blagojevich said it was “a free country.”
Wyma wasn’t the only person banned from that bond work. It was so high profile that the governor was rightly scared to death that something like involvement by his pals would truly hurt his administration. Everyone was made happy with subsequent deals, however. Very, very happy.