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More trouble at DNR

Friday, Mar 28, 2014

* This stuff has gotta stop. From the AP

The chief of state parks in Illinois must repay $7,200 of travel reimbursement he wasn’t entitled to after inquiries by The Associated Press, the latest in a series of missteps at the Department of Natural Resources since February.

Ronald House, the department’s director of the office of land management, was reimbursed nearly 80 times for commuting to or from work when state travel rules forbid such reimbursement, according to an AP review of state records.

It’s another blemish for Natural Resources officials, who initially defended the reimbursements as proper, after a series of recent public relations troubles: a deputy director who attended fishing tournaments while on sick leave and two mining regulators who accepted campaign contributions from a coal-mine operator.

Chris Young, spokesman for IDNR Director Mark Miller, initially said the director would not require House, who makes $75,000 annually, to repay the money because it was not his error. But Miller changed his mind this week and asked for reimbursement, ten days after the agency acknowledged the error.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - Arizona Bob - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    Looks like we have a department that should be a target for budget cuts. Who was asking posters to specify examples of waste and abuse? Steve Schnorf, are you still saying there’s no reform that can be implemented to reduce the amount of the tax increase?

    I’ve found that these kinds of patronage abuses (you couldn’t get away with this, or even get the job, without political clout) are much like icebergs; you only see about 10% of the size of the problem.


  2. - Just Observing - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    How does a high-ranking state employee believe s/he is allowed to submit reimbursements for their regular commute? I could understand if s/he had to go a different location than their typical workplace and it was a lot farther.


  3. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    ===Looks like we have a department that should be a target for budget cuts. ===

    LOL

    The place is a shell of its former self.

    It’s not budget cuts DNR needs. It’s better management.


  4. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    And the hits just keep on coming.

    == who initially defended the reimbursements as proper ==

    People drive process. It’s bad enough when people aren’t regulating themselves or their agencies properly.

    It’s even worse when they double down and try convincing you that inappropriate actions are actually legitimate.

    I wonder what made Director Miller change his mind and ask for reimbursement 10 days later. A sudden burst of clarity and conscience? Or learning John O’Connor was going to press with a story on it?


  5. - dog days - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:31 pm:

    Why does the director need a spokesman? Let’s start there.


  6. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    Just a mindset. Up in my neck of the woods, schools superintendents make well north of 150k and feel they need transportation, gas and insurance to do their jobs.

    I get travel outside the district, but not to commute….


  7. - Union Man - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    I’ll like to have someone look over the books for the last 5 years!! I cannot believe this is the first time this has happened! Ronald House, the department’s director of the office of land management should be fired for try to get money for his daily ride. How did he get this job anyway?


  8. - Cassandra - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    Agree with dog days, although this director may need a spokesman just to try and explain away his various errors in judgment. Like the one where he decreed that Mr. House didn’t have to pay back the excess travel reimbursement. It may not have been his fault, so what. At a minimum, it was still an overpayment.


  9. - flea - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    Directors all need spokesmen so they don’t say anything overly stupid..on the other hand they can act as dumb as they want, apparently. This Director is a Quinn favorite


  10. - Not Again - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    Hate to sound like a broken record, but DNR Director Marc Miller HAS to go. That department under his “leadership” has been a hit parade of examples of bad government which, in turn, will become the fodder of SO many potential ads by the Rauner campaign against the Governor.
    So what is the next story to come out of the Quinn/Miller DNR story mill?


  11. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    If Quinn won’t do it - Rauner will.

    You guys either need to clean up this stuff yourselves or someone you don’t want to clean it up will.

    The more of these kinds of stories, the more voters will feel they need Bruce Rauner.


  12. - Anon - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    If the place is now a she’ll of its former self, and this stuff is still happening, time to abolish the dept. Seriously, expedite automation and streamline management into the Govs office. Have a dep chief oversee operations. More efficient, more streamlined. Smart government.


  13. - Secret Square - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    “expedite automation and streamline management into the Govs office”

    You really want state parks and campgrounds to be purely “automated”? You think we don’t need real people out there making sure the grass is mowed, the restrooms are clean and rowdy teenagers, etc. aren’t laying waste to the park and harassing or stealing stuff from other patrons/campers?


  14. - Marty - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    “state travel rules forbid such reimbursement”. Political hack in supervisory position either not knowing rules he is responsible to enforce or knowingly violating the same. Payback is not adequate. Some sort of punishment, ie. leave without pay up to termination, is appropriate.


  15. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:31 pm:

    This is ridiculous. The travel rules have been substantially the same since the early 1980s. (When Young AA wrote them lol.)
    They’re quite clear. The Auditor General will have his shot at DNR and that should be quite a report.


  16. - Roadiepig - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    It’s no wonder why they have kept many of the fish cleaning stations at lakes around the state closed (some since Blago gutted essential services, due to his dislike of anything “outdoors”, the year he took office). This type of waste is inexcusable. Maybe if they stopped picking political lackeys to fill important positions the DNR would have enough funds left to actually do what they were intended to do?


  17. - Confused - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    7200 for 80 commutes? It costs him 90 dollars to drive to work?


  18. - Sir Reel - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    Reimbursement for commuting by executive staff at DNR is more the rule than the exception. It blossomed under Blago and has continued under Quinn. They sometimes get away with it by establishing the employee’s official office at a location outside Springfield, like where they live. Former Director Sam Flood was a classic case. His “office” was at some State Park in southern Illinois. The Director of a State agency no less.

    Some DNR employees’ offices are their homes.

    Guess Mr. House didn’t get the memo.


  19. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:58 pm:

    ==Why does the director need a spokesman? Let’s start there.==

    Agencies have communications staffs.

    ==If Quinn won’t do it - Rauner will.==

    Rauner is going to personally manage DNR? Or is he just going to micromanage it in response to FOIAs and media requests? Not a surprise he would govern by press release and reaction, because that’s the only thing he does now.


  20. - RetiredContractor - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    This is why we needed to add $2 to our vehicle license fee to support DNR?


  21. - Cheswick - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:02 pm:

    I wish Chris Young was still at the State Journal Register. He’s an excellent nature writer and photographer. I do hope he’s happy.


  22. - Leave a Light on George - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:02 pm:

    “Former Director Sam Flood was a classic case. His “office” was at some State Park in southern Illinois. The Director of a State agency no less”

    That State park was the Shooting Complex in Sparta. That place has hid/housed more phony baloney assistant, associate, deputy directors than the Oscar Myer Wiener mobile.


  23. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    Miller needs to go. He was never a manager. Nice guy. But he is not a manager.


  24. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    There has always been political hacks at DNR. They are still there. They may be on the DNR payroll. But make no mistake. They work for the governors political campaigns.


  25. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    DNR has no time clocks. So house is not the only one doing this. Difference is the other people use state vehicles. They know it is illegal. But they count their drive time to and from the site as part of their shift. They have never been asked to reimburse the state for fuel.They always use the excuse they are saving the state money. Because sometimes they have to go straight to another work site in the field. They have always been on the honor system with keeping their own time.


  26. - LincolnLounger - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 2:50 pm:

    For the life of me, I have never understood why Quinn didn’t clean house of all this Blago patronage and install his own.

    Instead, he hears about a problem and then doubles down. Bizarre.


  27. - NearSpringield - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    LincolnLounger,
    It is ironic that you posted that here. In this case, that is exactly what Quinn did. The old director was fired, and Marc Miller was brought in at the beginning of Quinn’s term. Be careful what you wish for.


  28. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    LincolnLounger these are Quinn people.


  29. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    Rod was impeached on 1-29-2009.


  30. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:13 pm:

    At some point you need to stop calling them Blagojevich people. He has been gone a long time. They are all now Quinn people.


  31. - Walker - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Too bad this kind of ridiculous crap distracts from the real fiscal problems of the State.

    Yes. Absolutely. Clean it all up. Then get back to the $40+Billion long-term.


  32. - Allen - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:27 pm:

    Speaking or more bad news at the department, this story seemed to have gone unnoticed this past week.

    http://www.bnd.com/2014/03/28/3133343/lawmaker-state-regulator-whose.html


  33. - Rob Roy - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    He must not have had to take the “Ethics Test” That all of the state employees are required to take. And if he did, he should be fired and banned from holding any state employment.


  34. - s k hicks - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 3:59 pm:

    You’re right Rich. DNR needs better management. They also need honest management. Dedicated career employees bailed long ago as they watched people like this turn the Agency into a punchline.


  35. - Robert Lincoln - Friday, Mar 28, 14 @ 5:28 pm:

    I don’t know the man and I am not defending his abuse. However, If you believe DNR can be cut, you have never tried to enjoy what were once our great State Parks. Parks closed. Parks unsecured. Parks in disrepair. The Chief of the State Parks makes $75,000. Awful hard to attract a qualified professional candidate who will manage for that amount.


  36. - Retired IDNR - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 10:33 pm:

    Director Miller needs fired - DNR has been a joke under his reign


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