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Ill. jobs screened for political ties after hiring

1 year, 2 months ago The Associated Press

The claims are raising questions about how closely the current administration has followed rules

From The Associated Press:

When questions arose about political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration evaluated several jobs that already had been filled to ensure they were among the few positions where an applicant's political loyalty and connections could be considered.

But a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling over government hiring in Illinois requires that question be answered before a job offer is even extended.

Michael Shakman, who spearheaded a landmark 1972 decree against political hiring, sued the Democratic governor this week in federal court. He is asking for a monitor to investigate employment at the Transportation Department after a report last year by the Better Government Association that for nearly 10 years, IDOT evaded both his Shakman Decree and the high court ruling known as Rutan in hiring people based on politics and later transferring them into positions protected from easy dismissal.

The claims - and the Quinn administration's response to it - are raising questions about how closely the current administration has followed those rules.

Quinn has said he has no tolerance for breaking the rules and that he ordered an audit of the jobs after learning of the discrepancies.

The BGA report found as many as 200 IDOT "staff assistant" positions filled in violation of Rutan under Quinn and his predecessor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

After Shakman's motion was filed in federal court on Tuesday, IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said the 61 jobs currently labeled as staff assistants were submitted for evaluation to the state's personnel agency, the Department of Central Management Services, to determine whether they should be covered by Rutan. The agency responded that 50 of them should be, and they will be treated as such in the future. There's no indication anyone hired will lose his job.

After-the-fact appraisal is not how Rutan is supposed to work, said Carl Draper, a Springfield lawyer who has been involved in several high-profile government hiring cases, including one in which 16 IDOT employees, fired by Blagojevich for political reasons, won back their jobs.

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