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What the heck?

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014

* The Sun-Times has a disturbing report about the new DCFS head

Gov. Pat Quinn’s new director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services pleaded guilty to stealing from clients of a West Side social service agency and later became embroiled in a child-support battle over a daughter he said he never knew he’d fathered, records show.

We’ll leave the second half of that sentence alone and focus on the criminality allegations, which appear serious

Before his career in state government, Bishop was a substance-abuse counselor at the Bobby E. Wright center. According to his Sept. 17, 1993, arrest report, he received $9,262 from clients and failed to turn over that money to the center between May 5, 1992, and July 23, 1993.

Bishop created a “bogus” program for convicted drunken drivers, said Lucy Lang-Chappell, former executive director of the center, who was his boss. He was improperly taking money from patients and providing them with forms they wrongly believed would allow them to get their driver’s licenses back, though the center wasn’t licensed by the state to provide that service at the time, Chappell said in an interview.

She said the scheme was exposed when a patient came to the center in July 1993 with a currency exchange check the patient wrote to the center for his participation in the DUI program. The man said Bishop visited his home that day and insisted he replace the check with one written directly to Bishop, according to Chappell.

Chappell said she confronted Bishop with what the patient told her — and fired him on the spot.

The center was forced to reimburse “a stream of patients” for checks and cash they’d given Bishop, Chappell said. An insurance policy eventually covered the center’s losses, she said. […]

Bishop has maintained that, despite his guilty plea, he was innocent of the theft allegations. At a 1994 court hearing, his lawyer said Bishop turned over the money he collected to Chappell, who says that’s “totally false.” Chappell, now retired, wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, and other current and former Bobby Wright employees backed up her recollection of events in interviews with Sun-Times and WBEZ reporters. [Emphasis added.]

Not good at all.

* The Tribune editorial board sums up the context well

DCFS Director Erwin McEwen abruptly resigned in 2011. The agency’s inspector general and the state executive inspector general later reported that a politically connected contractor linked to McEwen had received millions of dollars from DCFS and other state agencies for work that couldn’t be substantiated. State ethics inspectors later said the contracting scheme cost taxpayers at least $18 million. McEwen refused to cooperate with inspectors.

In 2005, Bamani Obadele resigned as DCFS deputy director after an investigation by the agency’s inspector general found he had profited from state contracts. Obadele pleaded guilty in 2010 to a federal fraud charge. He admitted he had prodded DCFS vendors and contractors to purchase products from a company he owned and subcontract work to another company linked to him.

In 2011, Quinn made a smart move, tapping the enormously respected child welfare veteran Richard Calica to succeed McEwen. Calica questioned DCFS from top to bottom, with one priority: improving the lives of abused and neglected kids. Calica died last year, and chief of staff Denise Gonzales took over as acting director. It’s not clear why Quinn didn’t make her permanent. What is clear is that Quinn’s administration made a quick decision on Bishop rather than do what it should have: Conduct a search for the best child welfare expert in the country.

Senators, don’t rubber-stamp this nomination. Press the governor to find the best of the best.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

48 Comments
  1. - bill ryan - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    Folks stop the muckraking Bishop should be judged on how he manages DCFS Let the past be the past Move on!!!


  2. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    Quinn you have been gifted a divided GOP and no primary challenge, could you at least vet the people you hire a tiny bit? Way too much of this stuff. The people of Illinois who don’t want a plutocrat lording over them would appreciate you making it a little harder for him to so.


  3. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Well, Bishop did serve over at Juvenile Justice for four years, apparently without incident, so this probably seemed like a safe choice to the Quinn admin, assuming-a big assumption–that the staff actually looked into these background details instead of accepting Bishop’s version.

    As to a national search, who worth hiring would take a job that could end at the close of the year. Rauner is unlikely to keep Quinn’s department heads.

    I’m not sure what Calica did over at DCFS but if he was attempting substantive reform, I imagine there was a lot of kickback from the bureaucracy.
    A period of bureaucratic torpor would probably be welcomed and Bishop/Quinn can provide that. The kids will have to wait.


  4. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    At first I thought, eh, let’s put the child support thing aside. But then I thought — you know this is the Department of Children and Family Services. It’s kinda relevant. Sad.


  5. - Norseman - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    I could say, “what was Quinn thinking,” but that presumes some level of competence. That has been lacking in his administration.


  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    Bishop has made quite a living as a bipartisan conman.

    Who’s his clout?

    What HGF said. Quinn’s Achille’s heel is management. Being governor is not license to be a super-legislator. Get your executive skills on and exercise them.


  7. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    Appointing and managing personnel remains their Achilles heal. While they’ve made some good appointments, their process remains a total disaster. This is the predictable result.


  8. - The Colossus of Roads - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    Gov Quinn has never sought out ” the best of the best”. Why would he start now. Without naming names,former ISP director moved to IEMA, former ICC director moved to IDFPR, former IDOC director created early release problem, CTA appointee withdrwal, etc, etc.


  9. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    In a community agency considering who to hire, would an individual who had been convicted of stealing from persons served at another human services agency be selected?

    Not in any agency I’ve ever worked at. In fact, he would be banned from employment in the field by being on the state registry for those staff who abuse, neglect, or financially exploit those they serve.

    Can Illinois do no better than giving top jobs to people who steal? I guess not. With the fundamental dishonesty we see from so many of our elected officials, a guy who stole $9000 is a rank amateur.


  10. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    Wasn’t Bishop the head of DJJ? Shouldn’t this have been an issue when he got that job?


  11. - Cassidy - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    I’m sure the Republican candidates debating tonight will mention what they would do about Mr. Bishop, as will the Senators meeting tomorrow.

    This is indefensible.


  12. - Commander Norton - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    I’m always hesitant to deny someone a second chance because of his past, particularly when the allegations are in dispute and this gentleman claims he pled guilty only to spare his family and because he couldn’t hire competent counsel. But embezzling public funds is no mere personal foible. DCFS unfortunately has a troubled history with financial mismanagement and funds gone awry, and with precious few resources left to keep children safe, the Quinn administration really can’t afford any more shenanigans over there. I’m not saying his nomination should be withdrawn immediately, but there would have to be an extremely thorough investigation that demonstrates very clearly that the allegations were bogus.

    As a side note, the administration has a habit of not moving deputy directors up, even when they’ve proven their competence and possess valuable institutional knowledge. For some reason, the Quinnies would rather shift people around laterally. That makes no sense to me.


  13. - Aldyth - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    In the last twenty years, systems have been put in place in human service agencies receiving state funding, to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of the individuals we serve. There are databases set up so that an individual who is found to have committed abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation will be listed and ineligible for employment in state funded human services agencies.

    Why do people who have been convicted of such crimes get jobs with the state and move their way up the corporate ladder? I suppose that stealing $9000 is rank amateur level compared to a lot of other cases we’ve found out about.

    Bishop wouldn’t even be allowed to work in most human services agencies in Illinois, by Illinois’ own regulations. Says a lot, doesn’t it?


  14. - OneMan - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    Commander Norton

    Gonna sound silly, but perhaps the deputies at most agencies really run the show so it might make sense to keep them.

    Then again this is classic Quinn.


  15. - DuPage Dave - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    This Bishop buy sounds like he has plenty of political connections. On one level raising the child support issue seems kind of lame. It was resolved over a decade ago. The theft charge from the mental health agency is much more serious, but since it was bargained down to a misdemeanor it is not really an impediment to employment.

    But this is not an ordinary job- it’s the director of our state child welfare agency. There should be a higher standard than if Bishop were applying for a job as an office administrator. He did not support his own child. He stole from poor clients at a mental health center. Quinn can do better.


  16. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    As WS said, who’s his patron?

    Probably powerful enough that when he messes up as DCFS Director he can get a job at Corrections.


  17. - RNUG - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 10:57 am:

    Not only has Quinn not cleaned house from the Blago days, he continues to questionable hiring policies. I was willing to give Quinn the benefit of doubt when he got the job, but he’s probably been the biggest disappointment of any political figure in my lifetime.

    I can see the Rauner PR people filming the fall campaign ads now …


  18. - Cassidy - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    There is an effort underway to reform the record keeping and tracking process at DCFS.

    This controversy is likely to derail that effort. Bishop has to go before he becomes a campaign issue.


  19. - Hanzo Hattori - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    Character defining moment(s).


  20. - Toure's Latte - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    Why in the world would Quinn give whoever wins the GOP primary any ammo? Promote a Deputy or department head to Temp Director of the agency and make the decision after the general. Even a retired judge would be a better fill-in for one year.


  21. - Toure's Latte - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    * Oops forgot, ==Family Court== Judge.


  22. - Nonplussed - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    Dillard was for Bishop before he was against him. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/97/senate/09700AM0013_02172011_009000.pdf


  23. - "friend of a friend" - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:21 am:

    The Exec. Appointment Committee has the power to compel testimony from State employees, but unlikely non-state employees. However, someone who is invited and voluntarily testifies is always welcome. Let’s see the Dillard machine in action! If he and his staff can:
    1. Line up witnesses to testify
    2. Have a complete copy of the court transcripts.
    3. Have a complete copy of the arrest report and case report.
    4. His allocution on record will have what he told the COURT at sentencing. HIS OWN WORDS to receive probation.
    5. His probation officer’s reports including what he told their staff about the crime.
    6. His restitution since.
    If ol’ Kirky boy can pull that off, maybe he has my vote in the primary! Lol
    5.


  24. - Upon Further Review - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    It must be election time. Pat Quinn the self-proclaimed “Populist” always goes down and dirty when he needs votes hustled out of the inner city Chicago precincts.


  25. - State Worker - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:35 am:

    His clout comes from him being the caseworker for DCFS during the BabyT case for the “Burkes” I have known this man many years and he’s never impressed me. And this story should have come out before he was made Director of Juvenile Justice years ago. Not at all a good role model for our kids in Prison..let alone DCFS kids.


  26. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    –His clout comes from him being the caseworker for DCFS during the BabyT case for the “Burkes” –

    No kidding? That explains a lot. Eddie has always been a bipartisan, equal opportunity fixer.


  27. - Upon Further Review - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    Point of information: Is it correct that apart from per diem expenses service on the Juvenile Justice Commission is uncompensated?


  28. - carbaby - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    Seriously? Bishop has worked for DCFS and the State for almost 20 years. He was in management and then a Deputy Director with DCFS before being tapped for Juvenile Justice. This truly is old news. I have known about this for at least 10 years. And I say all this even though I really am not a fan of the guy and never have been. If you don’t believe that he was already investigated internally years ago, you are sadly mistaken.
    Why wasn’t this such a big deal when he was appointed to head Juvenile Justice?
    Where was the investigative reporting the last two years when Callica brought in at least 20 individuals, including Jess McDonald himself to run DCFS and some on contracts so the money didn’t have to be transparent all during the time DCFS was talking about laying off thousands of staff? Those staff weren’t making chump change.
    I will say that most people that I have talked to are relieved that Bishop was appointed. People on the outside have no idea the amount of damage that has been done to DCFS and in turn the Private agencies in the last two years.


  29. - downstate hack - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    Once again Quinn demonstrates his incompotence


  30. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    There is something ironic about a possible DCFS head being embroiled in a child support case.

    Who vets these nominees?

    We can do better. The kids and families impacted by DCFS deserve better.


  31. - Jerome Horwitz - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    Financial exploitation of a mentally ill person must be reported to the Office of the Inspector General for an investigation. Was this incident reported to OIG?


  32. - Living in Machiaville - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    Thinking that with all the laws passed and signed by Quinn the last few years limiting employers on what they can ask job applicants about arrest and conviction records that his hands were tied. (snark)


  33. - To The Point - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:47 pm:

    The focus on Mr.Bishop’s suitability to lead the Department of Children and Family Services is clearly warranted given these revelations.

    These issues should also be viewed within the context of his tenure as Director of DJJ.A federal class action lawsuit filed against the Department for unconstitutional conditions in Department facilities.(settled quickly through a consent decree).Some of the highest rates of sexual victimaazion of youth housed in DJJ facilities in the nation(Bureau Of Justice Report).
    And reports by the John Howard Association on conditions in DJJ facilities.


  34. - DuPage - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    The track record is bad, in that this involved him taking peoples money and giving them bogus certifications involving official state regulations. If this guy had been a public employee, it would have been official misconduct. Quinn should wake up about his appointments.
    On the other hand, maybe that was the best candidate Quinn could get. Who is going to want to work for Illinois after the pensions were cut so much, and how long term employees and retirees were cut. Potential employees look at that and think the state has poor credibility as an employer. They think ahead “where will I be in 20 or 30 years if I work for this state?” A lot of the best people are not going to apply. They can easily find other employment.


  35. - Arizona Bob - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    When I apply for renewal of my professional license in Illinois every two years, I have to proclaim that I haven’t had a judgement against me for delinquent child support. If I did, I can no longer practice my PRIVATE profession in Illinois. It would seem that somewhere along the way this guy either had to disclose the crime and child support issues to get a promotion, or commit fraud in concealing them. I think there’s a lot of dirty hands here, and I wish we had a diligent investigative press in Illinois that could stay on this until the process is reformed. There are a lot of good people out there who could really do a great job and clean up this corruption. It’s just too bad our system is so corrupt that we don’t get an opportunity to hire or elect them.


  36. - LisleMike - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    The past is prologue…the leopard doesn’t change his spots… There HAS to be better choices. Nothing against Bishop. Supposedly paid debt to society, OK. I forgive, but I don’t forget and certainly don’t put in position of temptation again!


  37. - Ann - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Thanks for the background, State Worker. It certainly makes sense. Sometimes I swear the man is determined to lose this election. If he’s found a patronage pick he didn’t like yet, I’d be amazed. The man’s not personally corrupt, but I don’t think John Q. Voter sees the difference between this and all the past gubernatorial shenanigans.


  38. - Juvenal - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 3:30 pm:

    @LisleMike : It is impossible to forgive someone who refuses to admit they did anything wrong, and foolish to expect they won’t due it again.

    @carbaby:

    It is difficult to fathom what damage you think was done to DCFS over the past two years, moreover how you attribute it to Calica. The General Assembly cut the agency’s budget by what, $100 million? If services have suffered, there is your likely culprit.

    And lucky you for being such an insider you’ve known for a decade that Bishop is an admitted con artist. I think it is news to most people. And the Senate may have indeed given him a pass last time around, along with the media. That does not mean that he doesn’t deserve a closer look now.


  39. - Dear Governor Quinn - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    DCFS has the MOST important job in our state! Please send this guy somewhere else.


  40. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 4:18 pm:

    The legislative committee which vetted Bishop for Juvenile Justice a few years ago may have been influenced by the fact that Bishop had a long career in DCFS executive management during the Republican years under Jess McDonald and Edgar/Ryan. In fact, under McDonald (and after the Baby T case) Bishop rocketed up the ranks. If the ball was dropped, it was a bipartisan flub.

    McDonald reportedly had a nice contract under Calica. Will Bishop continue to subsidize his old boss? And his old boss’s former aides, some of whom also reappeared under Calica according to current employees. More episodes of this soap opera are almost certainly forthcoming.


  41. - carbaby - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 6:36 pm:

    Cassandra- McDonald announced he was leaving the same day Calica resigned. All of the people Calica brought in were either SPSA’s or on contract- all of whom can be eliminated by the stroke of a pen.


  42. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 6:46 pm:

    Leaving? How can you leave a contract. Give back the remaining $$$$ maybe? Not.

    Anyway, whether one approves of Bishop’s appt. or not, he is the new broom of DCFS 2014. So he should be going through all those contracts, especially those personal service contracts, with an eye to moving the money from wealthy contractors to the kids. And how about a raise for foster parents? He should also be looking at his executive staff. Is former Acting Director Gonazles still there? In what capacity? Presumably, Bishop and his outside advisors would want to bring in a new COS. But should taxpayers have to pay for two?

    As I say, a soap opera, with multiple episodes forthcoming.


  43. - RNUG - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 7:11 pm:

    carbaby - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 6:36 pm:

    Point of fact … not all SPSA’s are “at will” appointees; quite a few are “4 year Vinson bill” appointees. If the SPSAs that Calica brought in were appointed by Quinn to four year terms, they enjoy civil service protection during their term and can’t be legally fired except for cause.


  44. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 7:19 pm:

    That was meant to read above, “…the complacent, passive Presiding Judge Patricia Martin there in the Cook County Child Protection Court….”


  45. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 7:21 pm:

    That was additionally meant in Paragraph 3 above to read “…no-nonsense job….”


  46. - RNUG - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 9:19 pm:

    Cassandra - Tuesday, Feb 18, 14 @ 6:46 pm:

    Yes, in some cases you do just walk away and leave the money on the table. I did that a few years ago on one contract after I had supplied all deliverable items but one that required agency action to complete. The agency failed to act …


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