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Question of the day

Thursday, Sep 26, 2013

* Sun-Times

Corruption-busting former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Wednesday voiced concern that the region’s four transit agencies seem to have dropped the ball on adequately training staff on how to remove politics from hiring.

Fitzgerald’s comments came during the second meeting of a transit task force formed in the wake of allegations by ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford that two Metra Board members conspired to dump him because he would not “play ball” on patronage requests — two of them supposedly originating with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). […]

In an exchange with RTA executive director Joseph Costello, Fitzgerald asked whether the RTA keeps any record of politicians who call the RTA to say they’d like someone hired.

Costello said no such record is kept because all such callers are referred to the agency’s website for directions on how to apply for jobs.

* The Question: Should all public agencies document instances when politicians inquire about patronage jobs? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - dupage dan - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    In my position as a state employee I am required to log and report and any all contacts w/elected representatives, from local thru state up to federal. Granted, it is highly unlikely that I would be fielding employment inquiries but nonetheless….

    I find it impossible to believe that the RTA refers elected politicians to the agency’s website for directions on how to apply for jobs. The answer strains credulity so far beyond the bounds of this earth as to be insulting to anyone within earshot. To bad Costello can’t be charged with lying to a federal official, since Fitzgerald is no longer the US Attorney.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:16 pm:

    ===Fitzgerald asked whether the RTA keeps any record of politicians who call the RTA to say they’d like someone hired.===

    “Not a good idea, no matter the outcome”, says Scotty Fawell.

    I voted “No”.

    I have yet to hear about a job that never asked for “references” or Headhunters that tell applicants NOT to have “letters of recommendation” attached to a resume… and when the Service Academies stop taking “appointments” from elected officials from their districts and state, which they do, then why can’t a Pol call, and the HR Department treat it EXACTLY as anyone who gets a letter of recommendation, or reference, and just leave it in the Personnel File and be done with it.

    A letter is a letter, until those receiving it treat it different. That is as much on the HR than the Pol. so why “out” the Pol?

    Lists are dangerous, and cut any and all ways.

  3. - A guy... - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:20 pm:

    This might sound odd coming from a GOPer, but if I had a buck for every time I heard someone say, people on welfare should be forced to work for the money, I could save the pension funds on my own. A lot of public service jobs are just that; lower skill positions that people with less education or opportunity can do AND do well. I don’t know any applicants for jobs that wouldn’t love a Government official’s name as a reference. A nice letter from State Rep X or State Senator X is even better. Most government offices have turned into de facto employment agencies where people come for help. Obviously, abuse is possible and in some cases even prevalent, but I’m willing to bet a lot of tax paying, law abiding, good citizens got jobs this way. Our private economy has eliminated a lot of entry level jobs. Good work still needs to get done by conscientious employees. Get rid of the abuse, but leave the opportunity in place. Even keeping track of “who sent who” is hardly foolproof. Just hire capable people. Keep a list of pols who ask you to promote people who don’t deserve it.

  4. - Belle - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:20 pm:

    I believe the general idea is to keep your job and documenting contact with an elected offical over hiring is not the way to maintain your position.

  5. - Robert the Bruce - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:29 pm:

    I voted no out of pure cynicism: the really sleazy ones will always find a way around it, and instead this would simply create more paperwork.

  6. - dupage dan - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    So, perhaps the idea of keeping a list of politicians and their employment requests is not a good idea. But we are to accept the claim that politicians are referred to a website to learn how to apply for a job? Really?

  7. - Weltschmerz - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:34 pm:

    To “-A guy” That’s a comforting opinion. Next time you’re stopped by ISP trot that out. Or maybe when you have a tax question or need something from the Secretary of State.

  8. - Ray del Camino - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:34 pm:

    Willy spot-on as usual.

    What about in a large pubic agency? *All* inquiries? How? Written? Spoken? Emailed? Scribbled on a cocktail napkin? And what’s a “politician”? A precinct committeeman? An alderman? A parks commissioner?


  9. - bear - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:35 pm:

    patronage leads to corruption

  10. - Just Observing - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:38 pm:

    I voted no. More busy work state employees without any real value added. There should be a transparent, universal policy in place in the event an elected official calls to prod a job for someone and leave it at that.

  11. - Liandro - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:38 pm:

    Voted yes, because at this point we need to take every step we can to fight corruption. I understand the cynicism, but I’m too young to afford cynicism. I’ll be living in this state for another fifty years or more–I’d just as soon take every effort we can to clean it up.

  12. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:40 pm:

    Depends, does Metra have Rutan exempt positions? I assume there are some.

    If not, and pols are trying to influence Rutan covered positions, it should be documented.

  13. - Sue - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:44 pm:

    aren’t such external contacts required to be logged and reported to the respective Boards under the Illinois Ethics Act

  14. - Mouthy - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:46 pm:

    Voted no. The waste of paper would be enormous.

  15. - anon sequitor - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:47 pm:

    I don’t want the bureaucrats controlling hiring either. In fact, I want a balance of political and non-political hires. So I voted NO. I want to retain some political influence in the office so there will be someone to be held accountable if the work doesn’t get done, or the objectives are not achieved.

  16. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:49 pm:

    Each public agency should set up its own “Department of Political Referrals.” Charge each politician a fee for the referral, say $250, to fund the activities of the DPR. See if that stops the problem.

    If not, then each Human Resources office should accept these official referrals and promptly toss them into the trash, like they do in the private sector for the most part. Com Ed, Peoples, and some other private sector entities still accept patronage referrals, but pretty much everybody else ignores them.

    This is one area where governments should operate more like a business — stop hiring unqualifies hacks as a favor to a politician.

    I vote no, but wish we could track who was placing people where. That would be a hoot.

  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:53 pm:

    State employees already have to log in and enter all communication they have with vendors - and that information is available to the public. It wouldn’t be that hard to set up a section of the same database to enter communications with politicians about employment for their friends - and make that available to the public.

    Or go at it from the other end - make politicians have to document every time they call a public agency and ask about a job for their friends.

  18. - x ace - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:54 pm:

    ” On advice of Counsel , pursuant to the 4th, 5th, and 14 th Amendments of the Constitution , I respectfully refuse to answer. “

  19. - Just Me - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:58 pm:

    Let’s all remember who probably writes the RTA’s CEO’s talking points.

  20. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    I wonder who Pres. Bush reported to when Sen. Fitzgerald recommended Pat Fitzgerald for his job at a public agency?

    Or maybe the president just referred him to the website of the Justice Department.

  21. - Just Me - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    Was the Speaker referred to that website when he called about hiring his son-in-law? I’m sure the usual hiring process was followed for that particular opening and all credible candidates were interviewed.

  22. - OneMan - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:03 pm:

    Voted yes, seems documenting it would do everyone some good.

    OW, at least in the IT industry I have never seen attached to a resume a letter of any sort nor have I ever attached a letter of recommendation to resume or passed one on to a headhunter.

  23. - Norseman - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:07 pm:

    === There should be a transparent, universal policy in place in the event an elected official calls to prod a job for someone and leave it at that. ===

    How do you have a transparent process without documenting the information?

    Yes, there is a difference between documenting a contact and maintaining a favors list as Fawell did. Public agencies have an obligation to be accountable for its actions. Documentation is critical to that accountability. If an elected official is so concerned about having documentation that he favors a job candidate that he doesn’t want it to be disclosed, than the candidate is most likely unqualified and shouldn’t be hired.

    I documented all inquiries I received. Then again, if the politician was serious he/she went straight to the Governor’s Office.

  24. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:09 pm:

    ===…when Sen. Fitzgerald recommended Pat Fitzgerald…===


    “Well, that recommendation was different”

    Yeah, they’re all different when they aren’t YOUR recommendation.

  25. - Keyrock - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:10 pm:

    Rutan and Shakman restrictions are there for good reasons. Of course the calls for non-exempt positions should be logged. (By the way, an unsolicited call is different than a job reference).

  26. - Keyrock - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:13 pm:

    And Fitzgerald/Fitzgerald is different. The US Attorney is nominated by the president — it’s an openly political, policy-making appointment.

    (Sen. Fitzgerald picked Pat after calling around to find recommendations for the best federal prosecutor out there from outside Chicago, not because Pat had done good precinct work — but that’s not the reason that matters. The nature of the position matters.)

  27. - Shore - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:50 pm:

    The federal government does this the right way. They have a book called which lists all the political jobs and political appointments and publish it. It’s only updated every 4 years so that should change but this seems over the top and I am a huge hater on here of state/local/regional government.

  28. - walkinfool - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 2:59 pm:

    Sure thing.

    Let’s figure out more ways for our state employees to waste time on bureaucratic nonsense.

  29. - wordslinger - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:00 pm:

    –The US Attorney is nominated by the president — it’s an openly political, policy-making appointment.–

    You better hope not.

  30. - Demoralized - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:11 pm:

    I voted no. It’s a huge waste of time. People are recommended for jobs all the time in the public and private sector. I could care less if some legislator wants to call somebody about a job. I have better things to worry about.

  31. - A guy... - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:11 pm:

    - Weltschmerz - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 1:34 pm:

    ==To “-A guy” That’s a comforting opinion. Next time you’re stopped by ISP trot that out. Or maybe when you have a tax question or need something from the Secretary of State==

    Dude, did you even read the article at the top referring to transit agencies, not State Coppers or SoS employees- though this would apply to some of the SoS jobs that require good service, but not necessarily a Harvard degree. The point is lots of these jobs are entry level or not specialty skill jobs. They need reliable people to fill them. Pols are a natural provider of people looking for work. Ask any of them how often people come to their offices looking for help getting a job. In most cases, this system works very well and grateful people do a good job. Try the decaf.

  32. - A guy... - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:13 pm:

    Scary thought Wordslinger, is that Federal Judges are nominated the same way as US Attorneys.

  33. - Fed up - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:32 pm:


    The president sends the nomination to the senate, and everyone knows who recommends US attorneys if only every appointment was this transparent.

  34. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 3:49 pm:

    So I screen my number, call the IDOT HR department, identify myself as some targeted State Rep, make an inquiry or demand a promotion for some well-known schlocky employee, my inquiry gets logged somewhere, drop a dime on a reporter to FOIA it, and now I’ve created a campaign issue for the opponent to capitalize on. Brilliant!

  35. - xzibit - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 4:29 pm:

    Yo dawg, I heard you like politics. So we added a system to report your politicking so you can politic while you politic and play while you play.

  36. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 7:44 pm:

    Sure–it’d be good government practice.

  37. - Richard Afflis - Thursday, Sep 26, 13 @ 9:26 pm:

    I have NEVER cared how someone got their position. I know of no place that hires SOLELY based on “scoring the best on an “objective” test.”
    What TRULY matters is what someone does ONCE THEY GET THE POSITION.
    Don’t worry about the call or letter on behalf of the candidate. If the candidate is not qualified or does not demonstrate the capacity for the job, tell the person who called.
    Once the person has the job, if they are not doing it, address their caller.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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