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Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 5, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Brian Mackey’s recent interview with Gov. Pritzker

Q: You’ve been governor for almost four years now — I wonder if you’ve ever been in a position where someone has asked you to do something that made you feel like: Are they asking me to do something unethical or illegal? And what did you do about that?

A: I’ve not had anybody approach me about something that was illegal. I think there are moments when I think, you know, I’m not sure this is something that should be discussed in this context. Maybe it’s something political that someone brings up in a in a governmental setting. And so that’s when I’m quick to say: We should not be talking about that here. You can talk about it in a campaign office, but not in the Capitol, for example, something like that. But nothing that I think anybody intended to be unethical that they’ve approached me about. I think sometimes it’s by accident, you’re in a conversation, you’re talking about something that’s state oriented, and you just sort of transition into something political. And so that’s something I’m very careful about, and I think everybody should be.

But look, we have to address corruption in the state head on. And I’ve said this from the beginning: It’s a scourge that has been plaguing the state of Illinois for far too long. That’s why virtually every year that I’ve been in office — I’ve been in office for four years — three times I’ve proposed and got past ethics reforms. Do we need to do this every year? Yes, we do. We need to review the laws every year and see what it is that we can be shaping and doing better. But most of all we need to hold our public officials to a high standard. People ought to stand up for integrity and honesty in public service. It amazes me, like it does you, that someone doesn’t get it. You can’t stop people from all of a sudden doing something corrupt that you didn’t expect them to do. But you can have laws on the books that hold them accountable. And in the case, as you’ve seen, of a recent indictment, there is a law on the books that says no, you can’t accept a bribe. But it does amaze me when someone is convicted of it that they actually thought they could get away with it or that that was somehow appropriate.

The Question: Has anyone ever asked you to do something unethical or illegal? If so, what was it and what did you do about it?

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68 Comments
  1. - Dotnonymous - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:21 pm:

    What was it?…I took a quick ride with my Employer who had set up a pot purchase from undercover Police looking to entrap him.

    What did you do about it…about seven quick years in Federal custody.


  2. - Dotnonymous - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:25 pm:

    I forgot to mention there was not one gram of marijuana ever submitted or claimed at my jury trial regarding this police created “reverse sting” “conspiracy/entrapment”.


  3. - Close Observer - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:29 pm:

    We’re kidding ourselves if we think state staff members don’t sit on political calls all the time.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:33 pm:

    ===We’re kidding ourselves…===

    … and yet folks will tell of timing of calls, the phones themselves used, even leaving *buildings* to go .*across the street* to talk to someone where being in a state building is all kind of ethical bad.

    To the QOTD,

    I’ve never been anyone of significance, importance, or stature where another would think I could face an ethical or illegal in a setting of criminality.

    I’m a nobody, even nobodies readily see I’m a nobody.


  5. - Name Change to protect the innocent - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:35 pm:

    Yes. A couple of times. One guy is sitting in the clink now. The other is dead. Made sure to never deal with them again. They asked in vague terms that wouldn’t hold up in court but I knew where they were leading to.


  6. - Blue Dog - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:36 pm:

    yes. and it just happened to be some very wealthy folks. go figure.


  7. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:39 pm:

    I worked as a comms director for an elected official and attended the regular senior staff meetings every week. Inevitably, these conversations took a turn for the grayish areas of politics on government time or use of government resources to bolster political efforts.

    As the problematic topics came up, I’d politely remind everyone that those were a conversation for another place and time. Then, when it kept happening, I spoke with the elected official directly about it and mentioned my strong concerns. Eventually they stopped including me in these meetings.

    End result? I walked away from a good job. Later, the elected official I used to flack for was sent to federal prison.

    Quitting a job I liked and needed was an easy call compared to ruining my reputation or worse, getting caught up in a federal investigation.


  8. - Crash - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:40 pm:

    I was working for a small law firm. It was pretty miserable. I had already gotten a new job and was living out my two weeks as a courtesy to the firm, even though they really didn’t deserve it.

    A case comes up and it is against a prior firm.
    I tell the boss I could not handle it since I was uncomfortable handling a case against that firm.

    He insists I do it.

    So the read the through the file and it turns out hat I had signed pleadings for that firm in this case.

    I go back to the boss.

    He still insists that I should handle.

    That’s disbarment level conflict.
    He yelled for a while but there was no way I was going to touch that one.


  9. - Amalia - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:47 pm:

    Unethical? Yep. someone big asking for information from a government decision in process. completely wrong. just kept saying no, no, no, no.


  10. - Correcting - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:50 pm:

    Offered job in exchange for endorsing someone. I told them no and ended up getting the job anyway. They lost their political run. That is GOD at work if you know what I am saying.


  11. - froganon - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:53 pm:

    A constituent sent me a signed receipt for a cash payment for work on their property. The cash never made it to our office or into our accounts. A similar situation surfaced shortly thereafter. I turned over all of the information to our county States Attorney. A county “investigation” turned up nothing and the statute of limitations ran out. The signer of the receipt and recipient of the cash and check was voted out of office and is still collecting his pension along with his office manager wife who handled the administrative duties of his office. Local papers covered all of the details but no consequences for him or his wife. Needless to say, trust in the system of enforcement has eroded. The amounts documented with receipts and canceled checks were in excess of $20,000.00.


  12. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:54 pm:

    That… is something I’m not putting on the internet.


  13. - Four Eyes - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 12:56 pm:

    === We’re kidding ourselves if we think state staff members don’t sit on political calls all the time.===

    As a former Senate staffer I can tell you that this does in fact happen, but it is rarely because a state staffer is willing to take a fine from the ethics commission and chance is it. It is almost always the fault of a legislator who has zero comprehension of what state staff are allowed to talk about while on state time


  14. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:04 pm:

    ===That… is something I’m not putting on the internet.===

    Solid work there…


  15. - SOIL M - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:05 pm:

    Well if I did I wouldn’t talk about it on a blog.


  16. - AlfondoGonz - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:05 pm:

    Prosecutor here. I offered a defendant deferred prosecution for a misdemeanor, his first arrest. He waited for me outside the courtroom, asked if he could talk to me. His Public Defender was walking with me, so I looked at the PD and we both sorta nodded and asked what’s up. He then asked if he could talk with me without the PD present. We both said no. He then gestured towards his hand that was in his pocket and said “I wanna take care of you.” I just laughed and walked away.

    I’ve wondered how much he planned on paying. Couldn’t have been more than $20. The PD who was with me said a lot of his clients offer him drugs if they’re happy woth his services.


  17. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:07 pm:

    I’ve never been asked to do anything illegal, but have been asked to do things that were unethical.

    As a college instructor I’ve been asked by coaches/parents to change grades to keep their player/child eligible for sports or a scholarship.

    As a faculty union president I’ve been asked for details about disciplinary actions taken against a member.

    In all cases, I said “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”


  18. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:11 pm:

    Glomar response


  19. - Primate - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:15 pm:

    Yep. There was a former Republican US Senate campaign that pushed me to run with an unethical mailer. I wouldn’t go with it unless supporting materials backed up the claims. I was told by them to just do it and not to question them. End result was they were able to block career advances down the road. Today… I am happily employed and they made history by losing a primary race with limitless funding.


  20. - Lulu in Lake - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:26 pm:

    Things that violate my personal ethics? Yes. Things that are illegal or generally considered unethical? No.


  21. - Montrose - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:26 pm:

    In my 20’s I did some work in real estate development. The place I worked had a property they bought to redevelop, but it wasn’t working out, so they were going to sell it. It was my job to manage this process.

    There were a lot of folks that were interested in the property. I was on the phone with one of them, and he was trying to convince me to circumvent the process we had set up to help get the property in his hands. After saying multiple times that I couldn’t do that, he said something to the effect of he wanted to “offer me a stack” for helping him out.

    My young and naïve self thought “a stack of what?” I kinda nervously laughed and said no again. I didn’t really process that I had just been offered a bribe until after I got off the phone.


  22. - Grimlock - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:28 pm:

    Yep, and was interviewed by OEIG twice. They ruled it was more a matter of incompetence then fraud on the part of the agency leadership. The agency then fired me for whistle blowing but I got a severance check if I agreed to move on which I did since I had already lined up another job. That was one of several incidents at the agency but things there have improved due to the turnover in leadership.


  23. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:35 pm:

    Yes, all of the time. Board members, local officials, parents who think they are special and even employees.

    I have said no to everyone, every single time and that is why I have moved around so much.


  24. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:36 pm:

    First, was working for a northwestern suburban local small electronics dealer in 1993 in the Elgin area and they had advertised a TV we had one of as being on sale. I asked about it and the manager said it was just to drive traffic (that’s bait and switch for those unclear). They also would sell floor models without telling the buyer though that was less clear legally. I drove a camcorder out to the buyer and never went back.

    In a more amusing setting I was talking to the small town police sergeant when I was an RA during the drug paraphernalia session for training. One of the bongs he was showing was one I had confiscated (trust me the guy who did this had to really go out of his way for me to do this including spilling the bong water in the hallway). Anyway he said something about mushrooms and how he wanted to see some so he knew what to look for. This is somewhat self-explanatory as they are mushrooms, but I described what they looked like for him. He then asked me if I could get a hold of some for him to see (and knowing this guy he was serious–I still know him and he’s that square). I demurred and said no one was going to sell me any on campus as look at that bong. He then suggested I buy some at home and bring them back from Illinois so we were up to a federal crime by that point. My boss who was standing there and laughing finally changed the subject.


  25. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:38 pm:

    ===As a college instructor I’ve been asked by coaches/parents to change grades to keep their player/child eligible for sports or a scholarship.

    I had an abusive spouse ask me about the other spouse. He kept me on the line for over an hour while I gave him nothing.


  26. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:41 pm:

    “Has anyone ever asked you to do something unethical or illegal?”

    No.

    “If so what did you do about it?”

    Denied it ever happened.

    – MrJM


  27. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:41 pm:

    Not sure this falls in the same category, but under Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar I was required to purchase tickets to fundraising events in order to keep my state job.


  28. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:43 pm:

    I’m a money person. So people are always trying to twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify why we should pay for something. The answer is always no. It’s always the money guy that ends up in minimum security prison.


  29. - Silent Budgeteer - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:49 pm:

    As a state agency fiscal officer, I was expected to sign off on the travel vouchers for the (married) agency director’s girlfriend (who was also married and had two young children). She was padding her vouchers with a lot of expenses under $10 (so a receipt was not required, unless requested). I asked her to not include those non-expenses, as it was illegal and unethical; I also went to the agency’s ethics officer. He told me not to worry about it since she was “close” to the director; I passed the vouchers to my supervisor and told him why I would not sign them.

    My reward? I was terminated by the agency and unemployed for four months before finding another job (at a 40 percent pay cut).

    Less than a year later, the agency director resigned for “personal reasons” and his girlfriend was assigned to another agency; her husband divorced her as well.


  30. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:49 pm:

    Hey, Rich — thanks for this walk down Memory Lane…


  31. - Original Rambler - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:52 pm:

    In a past life in charge of an HR department for a unit of local government. An elected official called me very angry (not normally their tone) and wanted me to fire a lower level employee. Said I couldn’t do it. Later I learned that this employee was having an affair with the spouse.

    Back in those days it was not uncommon to receive requests to take some official action to benefit an employee that could not be done. A polite response explaining it couldn’t be done along with some advice on how the employee could legitimately obtain what they were looking for usually sufficed. If not, I’d get an earful.


  32. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:53 pm:

    Yes. Quit. OEIG got them.


  33. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:54 pm:

    Amazed JB only had to go to a campaign office for these talks. Guessin’ there were some that should happened on a noisy EL platform.
    Meanwhile, a long long time ago, in another dimension we told a guy his bright idea to leap into an elite police unit would go nowhere and he should his dough in his pocket.


  34. - thunderspirit - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 1:57 pm:

    Restaurant quality from MrJM.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to do something unethical.

    I know I’ve been asked to something illegal more than once. I typically point to the law as my answer. I’m not important enough for someone to try and bribe me. LOL


  35. - Norseman - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:13 pm:

    Yes. I was asked to sign a letter that I didn’t think was ethical or legal. I refused. They backed off.


  36. - West Sider - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:17 pm:

    Not mine-but as i am still involved in State politics and government- whenever I visit an old friend, who spent their career at the SoS office, I have to hear about the minions of former Secretary- we’ll call “George”- who routinely dropped off a stack of “buy or sell” golf tickets at my friend’s desk. My friend really hates “George”.


  37. - I said no - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:17 pm:

    I was called in to work on a state holiday; just an hour or two, no big deal, and after the holiday weekend was over and we were back at work, my boss tried to convince me, twice, to modify my submitted time sheet and file for an extra couple of double-time-rate hours I did not work, “to make up for the inconvenience”. That boss also communicated the same request to me thru an underling, all verbal, no email paper trails. I refused each of them on the spot, both times, in anger, because that’s not who I am, but also because I suspected the whole thing was a set-up to trap me into timekeeping fraud, so the boss, who did not like me, could get me fired if caught in an audit, or blackmail me over it. It was shockingly clumsy and transparent to me, how the boss was suddenly and very uncharacteristically, offering me this “bonus”. Like I was dumb enough to jeopardize my reputation, career, and pension, for that low of a price. After all the Blago ethics circus, and the stain it put on the entire civil service, asking us state workers to be crooked, for such a tiny amount, was just insane and insulting to me. We’re talking throwing your whole career away over… a couple hundred bucks?

    This same boss coerced the entire office staff to sign a Christmas card to the Agency Director and all leave our posts to walk over and deliver it to the director in person, on state time, “as a show of unity and support”. I refused to sign or leave my post. Boss asked why. I said: “does nobody here remember the Christmas cards at George Ryan’s Secretary of State office but me?? (banned punctuation) “This is how that kind of stuff starts (banned punctuation).”

    Another time, back in the Governor Ryan administration, I was working in my normal capacity at an event at the mansion, and some guest of Ryan’s tried to tip me. I said that was unnecessary and turned it down, laughing. Later, same event, Ryan asked me if I could come to his house to do some private work for the family; I demurred and passed that request on to my previous boss at that time, and he “took care of it”, instead of me. I don’t know if that meant he did the job I was asked to do, instead of me, or if he explained to them why I couldn’t do it. I like to think he just stood up to them and refused for the both of us, because he was an ethical guy, and often did things like that, things that sometimes put his manager job at risk, but he was good about protecting his people from ethics violations or policy abuses. That’s a bygone era, though, I think. The managers that came after that guy’s tenure were all weasels, IMO.


  38. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:23 pm:

    40 years ago, when I worked in the executive branch, I realized my career had peaked when I found myself in meetings and the only people agreeing with me were the legal counsel and controller. Not a “team player”. Pesky laws.

    30 years ago I was working for the GA. A senior staffer actually told me “if you can’t be political before 5 o’clock, you can certainly be political after 5 o’clock “. He tried to get me fired. His peers stopped him. He later did 18 months for stuff he did before 5 o’clock.


  39. - Gruntled University Employee - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:29 pm:

    A couple of years into my gig here at the big U a vendor cornered me after work at a local watering hole and started explaining to me about their “Friends and Family” program. It was an established list of personal kick backs for contract awards. I informed University Purchasing and the vendor was removed from the list of approved vendors.


  40. - Stix Hix - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:32 pm:

    Yes.

    I was often asked to write two invoices. The real one, and the one to submit to insurance that would cover the deductible.

    Always NO.


  41. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:34 pm:

    Forgot about fundraisers. Every now and then, I would tell my wife, “I’ll be home late, I have to buy some expensive eggrolls. “


  42. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:35 pm:

    Yes. Pushed back. Maintained a CYA file in a safe deposit box.


  43. - Scott - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 2:48 pm:

    I’m not really someone in a position to be doing any sort of unethical stuff.

    When I was in HS someone offered me some weed, which technically would have been illegal at the time. I turned it down. That’s about it for me though.


  44. - Curious citizen - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:13 pm:

    It was 40 years ago so I assume the statute of limitations has run out — a buddy asked me to buy a pound of marijuana out of state and bring it to him to cut into ounce bags.


  45. - twowaystreet - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:14 pm:

    At an old association job, members would frequently offer to give me money directly to prioritize business reference to them.

    I would always direct them the organization’s upcoming fundraiser instead.


  46. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:24 pm:

    Had someone ask me to give them urine so they could pass a drug test for work.
    I said a word that rhymes with “fell” and followed that word up with no.


  47. - Sal - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:39 pm:

    I was a Senate page when I was young. I used to be “admitted” to fundraisers all the time, nobody carded anybody back in the 1970’s.


  48. - DuPage - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:45 pm:

    I was told to chain a set of fire exit doors closed while the building was occupied.

    Refused and reminded them it was against the law.


  49. - Proud Sucker - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 3:49 pm:

    “Maintained a CYA file in a safe deposit box.” Weird, I had one of those a few years back as well. Finally purged it after my second job post that one.


  50. - Bruce( no not him) - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 4:00 pm:

    “ Are they asking me to do something unethical or illegal?”
    “Nope, that’s what staff is for, to shield me.”
    /s


  51. - Lurker - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 4:26 pm:

    Yes. And for quite sometime I felt bad I may have ruined their life because they were terminated after I turned them in. However, I later learned about other illegal actions and I did the right thing.


  52. - JoanP - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 4:43 pm:

    I occasionally had clients who would ask me what it would take to “make the case go away”. I would tell them, “a Not Guilty verdict” (which, of course, is not what they meant).


  53. - Primate - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:00 pm:

    Friendly Bob Adams. Wasn’t around under Thompson; however, was under Edgar. I find it hard to believe you were “required” to buy/sell fundraising tickets. This may have been a rogue supervisor but I guarantee no system was in place requiring employees to purchase tickets to keep their job.


  54. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:02 pm:

    ===but I guarantee no system was in place requiring employees to purchase tickets to keep their job.===

    That’s fun.

    I mean…


  55. - Primate - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:07 pm:

    It didn’t happen. So I guess that is fun. Maybe? The comment is false and needed addressed.


  56. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:13 pm:

    ===It didn’t happen. So===

    Wonder if those D2s still exist.

    I kid, I kid…


  57. - Primate - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:25 pm:

    I can’t say how a person feels so maybe they assumed they had to buy tickets. That’s on them.


  58. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:33 pm:

    ===I can’t say how a person feels…===

    … and yet you did.

    The tickets idea during multiple administrations walking this fine line that Rich here asks of a QOTD.

    Speaking in absolutes while historical context and thoughts to that, as Rosty among so many others, times change but the context of what was, either one recognizes or one ignores.

    I did not, not once question ethics or illegality, but if one feels the past is far different than what was…


  59. - notsosure - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:36 pm:

    On two separate occasions, I was in the room when political types tried to get my employer to engage them. (Once for property tax work; once for something so complicated I’m still not sure what it was exactly) Nothing explicit was said, and I was naive enough it didn’t occur to me to read between the lines. Neither time led to any business sent the way of the requestor (and as far as I know there were no repercussions), and it’s a good thing, since both have since been indicted.


  60. - stateandlake - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 5:37 pm:

    I was part of a consulting team retained by a large private sector corporation for the purpose of reviewing proposals for telecomm services. One of the private sector bidders contacted me by phone and offered courtside Bulls playoff tickets. No explicit quid pro quo was stated. My response was, “But that would be unethical, wouldn’t it.” The caller quickly agreed with me. That ended that.


  61. - Primate - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:17 pm:

    Again, can’t and didn’t, assume how a person feels about something. Also, can’t dispute that a loose cannon supervisor may have made staff feel that way. Nonetheless, It didn’t happen. As stated.


  62. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:21 pm:

    ===Again===

    I’d probably would’ve just let it sit…

    ===Also, can’t dispute that a loose cannon supervisor may have made staff feel===

    … that’s just plum embarrassing.

    If one were to remember just ONE thing, only ONE thing about this blog, Rich, and commenters…

    … long memories…

    … and most folks were “there” without any parsing of “feel”

    Be well.


  63. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:26 pm:

    ===It didn’t happen. As stated===

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1989-03-31-8903310242-story.html

    “Ex Employee Says He Sold Edgar Tickets On The Job”

    I mean, sincerely.

    Stop.


  64. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:29 pm:

    - Primate -

    It’s not that CFR invented the tickets, they redefined and in a ruinous way wholly criminalized it.

    There are *two* reasons CFE liked SoS…

    Jobs…

    And you’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger Edgar fan.


  65. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:32 pm:

    Primate -

    Agency I worked in, Thompson era Director had enough influence we didn’t have to buy tickets. Edgar era Director, we did have to buy tickets. It happened. Your statements can’t make it unhappen.


  66. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 6:34 pm:

    Langhorne -

    Same “senior staffer” who got into a public “dispute” on the House floor with a Representative?


  67. - New Day - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 7:10 pm:

    Sadly, yes. I once had a client who was also my cousin ask me to perform services for his side hustle and charge his employer as if we were doing the project for the employer. It was so disappointing and I never looked at him the same way again. And I told him no.


  68. - Big Dipper - Wednesday, Oct 5, 22 @ 9:17 pm:

    ==I occasionally had clients who would ask me what it would take to “make the case go away”.==

    Irvin says that doesn’t mean that lol.


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