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Forwarded e-mail lands employee in hot water

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011

* I don’t think the question here is whether the penalty was too stiff. A verbal reprimand to an employee with no record of trouble seems appropriate. What is in question, though, is whether the case warranted being placed on the Executive Ethics Commission’s website. The Commission doesn’t have to publish any case unless an employee discipline results in a suspension

An investigator for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s human rights agency got a slap on the wrist for forwarding an e-mail before last November’s election that contended the Republican Party had been hijacked by “dangerous, radical hate mongers called the ‘Tea Party.’ ”

The e-mail, sent on a state computer, claimed talk show host Glenn Beck and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin led the tea party effort to “take down President Obama and the government.”

* The employee is upset about the reprimand, but seems regretful about the forwarded e-mail in question

Forbes, 56, of Chicago, said in an interview that the case against him was “petty as hell.” He called the reprimand “bogus,” saying he sent the e-mail accidentally to some of his co-workers. He said his sister had sent it to him.

“I didn’t endorse it at all,” Forbes said. “It was just something I inadvertently sent. Had I thought a little more about it and were able to perceive the ramifications that I would have experienced, I would have just eliminated that e-mail altogether.”

That would have been the better course for Forbes. But I still wonder why the Executive Ethics Commission decided to publicly humiliate the guy. Your thoughts?

* Meanwhile

Polls have been showing a drop in [the tea party’s] approval, and a new AP/GfK poll shows that its unfavorable rating has seen a sharp rise. 46 percent of those surveyed said they have a negative view of the Tea Party movement, versus 28 who say they view it favorably.

The last time the AP conducted a national poll on Americans’ favorability of Tea Partiers was in their pre-governing period: throughout 2010 the conservative movement was viewed slightly unfavorably but the splits were close. In June of 2010 it even earned a positive rating, with 33 percent of over 1,000 adults surveyed finding the movement favorable against 30 percent. In the last AP rating, taken Nov. 3-8, 2010, directly after the 2010 election, the split stood at a slim negative rating of 32 percent favorable against 36 unfavorable.

The jump of ten points in the negative number is all in the “very unfavorable” category. In November of 2010 there were 22 percent who viewed the Tea Party that way, which has risen to 32 percent. The “somewhat unfavorable” number remains unchanged in the last nine months, steady at 14 percent.

The most recent CNN/ORC poll had tea party favorability at 31 percent, with 51 percent viewing it unfavorably. USA Today/Gallup’s poll found that a plurality of 42 percent would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate with tea party support.

* By the way, remember when I wrote yesterday about what some call the “Cold Civil War” that strengthened during the fight over the debt ceiling? Well, back in March, Republican Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger compared the coming battle to an actual shooting war

Just wait, said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, for the fireworks over next year’s budget, as well as a must-pass bill to allow the government to borrow more money to meet its commitments. Republicans hope to use that measure to force further spending cuts on the president.

“What I tell folks is: This is like Fort Sumter in the Civil War,” the Illinois Republican said Wednesday. “This is the first fight. The big battle is still ahead of us.”

Did he really compare his compatriots to the Confederacy? Perhaps he should check to see which state he represents before making more comments like that.


* Other stuff…

* Job Fair Draws Demonstrators - Congresswoman Judy Biggert hosted a jobs event in Romeoville Monday.

* Schock draws a crowd to Elmwood town hall meeting

* Editorial: Regional primaries make sense

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - John A Logan - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    It seems odd that they would publish this infraction. Someone must have an axe to grind with Mr. Forbes. I can understand the dissatisfaction with the tea party. In the beginning the Tea party was a non partisan movement that was truly a grassroots movement as well. People who were advocating smaller government, lower taxes and self reliance. However the rock star republicans such as Palin and Bachman have taken the Tea party corporate and true conservative independents are jumping ship.

  2. - wndycty - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:40 am:

    LOL Kinzinger’s e-mail kind of reinforces the point made in the e-mail “accidently” forwarded by Mr. Forbes.

  3. - wndycty - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:43 am:

    ^^^^I meant to say Kinzinger’s statement not e-mail. ^^^^

  4. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:43 am:

    The case of the e-mail should not have ended up with the EEC at all. It could have been handled at the agency level. It was a screw-up and he was reprimanded. End of story. There is absolutely no reason something like that deserved to see the light of day in public. It is things like this that drive state employees crazy, especially in light of things such as the unethical/illegal behavior of legislators re: legislative scholarships. Where is the perspective?

  5. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:47 am:

    So, is the Tea Party over? As much as I want to say “I told you so,” it’s important to remember approval ratings for Obama and Congress are down in the dumps too. Things are tough all over, and these polling data points reinforce that the public is interested in solutions, not demagoguery. We want employment numbers to increase, housing prices to rise and less fighting among politicians. A growing economy is the best way to reduce the nation’s debt, but neither Obama nor Boehner can snap his fingers and make it happen.

    They’d be wise to work together, and while I think Obama remains interested, I still don’t think the National GOP wants to help Obama get re-elected. I still think they’d rather sit on their hands and let the economy continue to stagnate, believing that is their best bet to retake the Senate and make Obama a one-termer.

    I hope I’m wrong. There is too much at stake for more of this kind of brinksmanship.

  6. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 11:54 am:

    - Perhaps he should check to see which state he represents before making more comments like that. -

    Not to mention who won that particular conflict.

  7. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:06 pm:

    –“What I tell folks is: This is like Fort Sumter in the Civil War,” the Illinois Republican said Wednesday. “This is the first fight. The big battle is still ahead of us.”–

    Well, you know what happened to those guys.

  8. - Responsa - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:12 pm:

    People are entitled to their private opinions on anything and everything. They are also able through the power of the internet to publish those opinions either as columnists, bloggers, or as private citizens– either named or anonymously. But the email in question was not in any sense private. It was sent on a state computer by a state agency investigator in an agency that is charged with monitoring human rights and uses taxpayer dollars. The email was political, frivolous, and completely inappropriate. The fact that the state employee did not immediately recognize that fact when he received it and sent it on is the ethical problem here. Yes, he’s absolutely being used as an “example” to others in government who have done, or might do similar things and he knows it and does not like it. It’s a teachable moment about ethics and responsibility that I think most of us, regardless of our politics, should actually be sort of glad to see being publicized and being shown on the Ethics Committee’s website.

  9. - jeff - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:14 pm:

    In the Tribune story he sent a political email to fellow coworkers. I think publishing the reprimand is appropriate. Every state employee should be vigilant against political activity with state time or resources. The next offender should not get off so light.

  10. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:15 pm:

    I think a key issue to consider with Forbes and other state employees, is whether they are actively engaging in politics and organizing on the state dime. In this case, it appears he basically forwarded on an editorial on policy/politics, but was not organizing for a party or candidate. Especially since he had no history of this type of behavior, a simple reprimand would do.

  11. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:21 pm:

    From the story about Biggert’s event

    Their message, for Biggert, according to Traynere: “No more cuts,” she said. “She needs to be creating jobs. Corporations are not job creators.”


  12. - bored now - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:31 pm:

    while the tea party is clearly dangerous (given that its adherents compelled the downgrading of our sovereign debt rating, something that will cost us all more taxpayer money — but also fits into the long-term right-wing agenda of defunding the left), this email shouldn’t have been forwarded from a state computer. i’d have to know more about how comparable violations were handled before speaking about whether the punishment was fair, though (i know a lot more about how other state party chairs are treated when they act against the state party’s interests which is why i had no difficulty speaking out against michael madigan’s gross appearance at speaker boehner’s funder)…

  13. - Mr. Fed up - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:44 pm:

    They should not have published this. All he did was forward an email and the statements in the email were not his thoughts. They looked back several years and checked this guys email and found nothing else. There are bigger cases out there the OEIG needs to concentrate on.

  14. - persnickety - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:54 pm:

    Agree absolutely with Responsa. Forbes said “He said his sister had sent it to him.” Why is he receiving personal email on a state computer? I work at a law firm, no personal email on firm computers.

  15. - Curious - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 12:58 pm:

    Sure Mr. Forbes may have violated policy, but as was previously noted, it sh/could have been handled by management. Are trying to look like they are REALLY weeding out all violations? Preety sure it’s for show and to distract from the serious ethics breaches that occur regularly, but make it to the light rarely. Just my thought.

  16. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 1:30 pm:

    - I work at a law firm, no personal email on firm computers. -

    So, do you think the main issue is that work computers shouldn’t be used for personal things, like maybe commenting on blogs?

  17. - Flaming Liberal - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 1:31 pm:

    The tea party should be of no concern to the D’s. They will not lead to our down fall. It is the media-driven perception of left activism that should be the concern. In this instance anything negative printed about the tea party is appropriate, but pointing out this little bit of leftist activism and highly inappropriate.

  18. - Mr. Fed up - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 1:45 pm:

    Curious, you’re right. It takes our eyes the more serious violations that the BIG boys. What a joke the Ethics Commission is.

  19. - D.P. Gumby - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 1:47 pm:

    The Exec Ethics Commn is a total waste of time and money. It started as a reasonable idea, but the statute is terrible and the staff is in search of things, like this, to justify their existence. This was no more than a minor “oops” that should have been a simple memo from the supervisor and not an anthill turned into a mountain. This is the sort of thing that makes the whole effort for legitimate government ethics look silly. The Inspector Gen. makes a big deal of a mis-sent email while Blago, who was never investigated, gets sentenced in Fed court and many of his cronies are still in gov’t or ignored.

  20. - Leave a Light on George - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 1:54 pm:

    =Sure Mr. Forbes may have violated policy, but as was previously noted, it sh/could have been handled by management. =

    Trouble is things like this never have been handled by management. Then they get completely out of control and what started as a small problem is now a big one.

    Perhaps by publishing this very light discipline for a minor violation will stop a bigger problem down the road.

  21. - Irish - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 2:11 pm:

    Mr Forbes indiscretion was published so there would be some violation to report on the Ethics website. In Illinois politics there are the “haves” and “have nots.” The “haves” are all of the people who are high enough on the food chain to be able to substantially gain personally by being unethical. They “have” the okay to do that with impunity.

    Then there are the “have nots” who do not have the okay to make any mistake. The “have nots” are typically sacrificed to the public to show that the “haves” are serious about ethics reform.

    A prime example of this is SB51. This is a law that was passed by the GA and signerd by the Governor that is supposed to provide transparency to all contracts and procurement made by all agencies of State government. It has handcuffed all agencies and added at least six months to any the letting of any contract and untold dollars in project costs because contractors are having to jump through all kinds of hoops to be included in any bidding. It requires that all discussions with contractors or bidders be published on the Procurement website….. The law exempts all legislators and constitutional offices and some of their staffs from reporting any contacts with bidders or contractors.

    If you are exempt then you can’t be unethical….THEREFORE your name will not show up on the Ethics website.

  22. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 2:47 pm:

    Is Kinzinger comparing his compatriots to the Confederacy? It sounds more like he is comparing them to the Union forces. They lost the first round, but will come back and win bigger battles.

  23. - Lycurgus - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 2:48 pm:

    The Tea Party was responsible for the downgrade? I’d say the idiots at S&P own that one all by themselves. Look at the fall in Treasuries after the downgrade . . . oh . . . nevermind. LOL

  24. - Reality.... - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 2:57 pm:

    One day they will publicly humiliate the wrong state employee by publishing some stupid mistake they made at work or were falsely reported to have made and you will find them hanging from the rafters in the office above their desk. If you want to lay off employees just lay them off, stop the bullying, harassment and humiliation. This is reality, these are real people and real families with children that you are bullying and humiliating. This will eventually blow up in your faces, bullying always does.

  25. - Ghost of John Brown - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:01 pm:

    Kinsinger/Fort Sumter

    As someone mentioned above, there were two sides to the battle. I don’t think it is a stretch to compare the Republican Freshman to a group of Union soldiers who were being bombarded as they tried to hold down the fort. The press and the Democrats have been lobbing bombs (figuratively) at them on a daily basis.

  26. - Its Just Me - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:20 pm:

    Isn’t there a de minimis exemption? This seems so petty and minor. It wasn’t even like he was advocating for a particular candidate or trying to raise campaign money. C’mon!

  27. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:21 pm:

    –I don’t think it is a stretch to compare the Republican Freshman to a group of Union soldiers who were being bombarded as they tried to hold down the fort.–

    LOL, so they get to argue for stronger state’s rights, less power for the national government, AND they get to wear the blue?

    That historical perspective is like that Tarantino movie where the Jewish commandos kill Hitler.

  28. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:37 pm:

    ===Isn’t there a de minimis exemption?===

    Yes. Mentioned above.

  29. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:48 pm:

    Re: “Cold Civil War”

    Pundits can chalk up things like Kinzinger’s Ft. Sumter reference or the even more egregious GOP presidential frontrunner threatening secession as overheated bluster or simple goofy gaffes all they like, but that’s doing a disservice to their readers and the American electorate.

    It’s not a coincidence that once the Republican Party under Reagan became a Southern Party of state’s rights that they adopted a neo-Confederate economic philosophy: unfettered free trade to benefit farmers/landowners and banking sectors at expense of the manufacturers and small business owners and laborers.

    You also see strains of Confederate thinking animating our tax and war policies since 2000 where just like the Confederates bankrupted themselves by starting a war without the will to actually raise and collect the taxes to pay for it, I fear the republic that the United States will be a civilization gone with the wind just like the Confederate States of America soon enough.

    And the thing of it is, while I look at this from a totally Northern Lincoln-loving, FDR-Democrat historical perspective, I fully recognize that Jackson-loving, Reagan-Republicans are just as fearful for the future of the country putting us in not so different of a situation as we faced in the middle of the 19th Century.

  30. - Leave a Light on George - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 3:50 pm:

    @ Reality

    Chris Kelly didn’t do anything wrong. It was all the fed’s fault.

  31. - Ghost of John Brown - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 4:07 pm:


    Since “Kinsinger” is most likely a German name, I think I better steer clear of any comments making a connection between the current situation and the movie “Inglorious Basterds”. The only possible upside would be a permanent ban.

  32. - ANON - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 6:02 pm:

    ==Did he really compare his compatriots to the Confederacy? Perhaps he should check to see which state he represents before making more comments like that.==

    I don’t see where he said anything of the sort. He didn’t feel they “won” the budget battle in terms of getting what they wanted, and compared it to the group who lost the first battle of Fort Sumter, but won in the long run. Perhaps you need to brush up on your Civil War history to see which side that was before making such an accusation.

  33. - Reality... - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 6:06 pm:

    @Leave a Light on George

    No idea who Chris Kelly is, should I care?….. If you have something to say, just say it.

  34. - Holdingontomywallet - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 6:08 pm:

    “The most recent CNN/ORC poll had tea party favorability at 31 percent, with 51 percent viewing it unfavorably. USA Today/Gallup’s poll found that a plurality of 42 percent would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate with tea party support.”

    Those numbers aren’t good and they are comparable to President Obama’s numbers. “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 21% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove.”

    People are disgruntled, except in Chicago where they love their democrats.

  35. - Reality... - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 6:13 pm:

    Why should people even use their “official” email accounts anymore at all, even for business? There are plenty of other email offerings out there…. I wonder if they searched his drawers to see if he is storing a can of soup for lunch in his office drawer or has a picture of his kids or wife on his desk, that’s no different than storing an email in an email account. Perhaps employees should stop using the bathrooms too, after all the toilets are state resources.

  36. - Gregor - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 6:19 pm:

    What will happen is some day a low level state grunt will get this disproportionate treatment and respond by opening all the floodgates on a particular Director or division. I have lunch with many state employees and they all have plenty of dirt they *choose* not to dish, because it is a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction kind of thing. But they keep it on file, you can bet on it, against the day they find a wining lotto ticket or some other reason to no longer care about burning any bridges. Something for managers and upper level people to think about. As well as the dweebs in the Ethics Board.

  37. - Reality... - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 7:02 pm:


    The beauty of it is Gregor, they could report anything they want, it wouldn’t even have to be true, completely made up out of spite or anger from being disciplined and there would be no repercussions for reporting false allegations about your boss or anyone of your coworkers. You can send a slew of investigators up someone’s rear by making false allegations about them and suffer no repercussions…… Great system isn’t it!

  38. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 8:03 pm:

    Bored Now,
    The Tea Party didnt cause the downgrade, The Dems and Gop past and present did by decades of overspending and creating trillions in debts for our children to have to pay off. Perhaps you should look at the trillions of new debt since Obama took office. Im no fan of the tea party but we need to get real about spending we cannot afford to run deficits every year.

  39. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 9:54 pm:

    Tough ruling. Unfair. Stupid email. Stupid anti-tea party nonsense, but it was harmless.

    This was not a big enough deal to be made public.

  40. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 30, 11 @ 9:57 pm:

    Freshman congressmen say silly things. Not a surprising comment, but stupid. In these times, forgivable.

  41. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 31, 11 @ 5:02 am:

    –Perhaps you need to brush up on your Civil War history to see which side that was before making such an accusation. –

    LOL. States rights, anti-national governement, rebellious Tea Partiers identify with the defenders of Ft. Sumter. Hit a nerve, dude?

  42. - MS - Wednesday, Aug 31, 11 @ 6:29 am:

    “while the tea party is clearly dangerous (given that its adherents compelled the downgrading of our sovereign debt rating, something that will cost us all more taxpayer money.”

    May need to get your facts and timeline straight. Standard & Poor’s warned in April, and again in July, that absent serious fiscal reforms, the U.S. credit rating would suffer. The Tea party had nothing to do with the downgrade.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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