Ald. Bob Fioretti says he’s thinking so seriously about challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February election that he plans on hiring campaign staff now. Want ads were posted online last week.
If you’re looking to apply, though, you might want to know this: Two staffers who worked on Fioretti’s first campaign didn’t get paid in full until he was halfway through his first term as the 2nd Ward’s alderman.
Former Fioretti staffers Emily Miller and Jane Deronne didn’t receive all they were owed until appealing to the state agency that helps workers who’ve been shortchanged.
Miller said Fioretti’s campaign stiffed her out of $3,000. An administrative law judge for the state sided with Miller and ordered Fioretti For Alderman to pay up, according to records obtained by Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times political portal.
“The Illinois Department of Labor investigation of this matter has disclosed apparent violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Act,” the judge wrote in awarding Miller the whole amount she had sought from Fioretti’s campaign committee.
Miller finally got her money in June 2009 — more than two years after Fioretti was sworn in as a City Council member. That check came just a short time after the Department of Labor also helped Deronne get $1,475 that the campaign should have paid her in 2007, state officials say.
Fresh out of law school and 26 years old at the time, Miller had joined Fioretti’s effort to unseat incumbent Ald. Madeline Haithcock. She worked for the Fioretti campaign from 7 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m., seven days a week, based on an “oral contract” for $2,000 a month.
In response to Miller’s “wage claim” with the Department of Labor Fioretti’s top aide said “campaign resources were limited” and Miller knew “adjustments to compensation were made” because of scant resources.
This response came from a candidate who had campaigned with $200,000 in contributions and $225,000 in loans from his own pocket or from his law firm.
Miller said one of her paychecks for $1,000 bounced. Another check for $875 was supposed to be left in her desk drawer. It was not there, she said.
Yet Fioretti’s campaign listed the two payments as having been made to Miller on disclosure forms filed with the state election board.
Now working for Voices for Illinois Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, Miller describes herself as one of those people with “a doe-eyed commitment to justice.”
“That was my first entry to politics,” Miller said last week of the Fioretti 2007 campaign. “I really believed in him and was extremely disheartened by the reality. To put so much into it — I was totally, totally heartbroken.
“It was a bad time. I thought I was going to get evicted. I couldn’t pay for my prescriptions.”
Reporters like Fioretti because he’s always willing to take our calls. And he’s almost always is eager to provide a quote criticizing the mayor, a not-so-common tendency among aldermen.
He was uncharacteristically terse when asked about Miller and Deronne this week.
“I don’t recall all the details of it,” he said, adding that campaign aides hired Miller and Deronne and made all arrangements with them.
“I guess we ended up paying whatever was owed,” Fioretti said. “I did not partake in the court actions, but I’ve always said that people deserve to be paid for what they put in.”
The alderman and possible mayoral candidate justifiably doesn’t let Emanuel — and didn’t let his predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley — shirk blame when underlings are offered as sacrificial lambs in times of trouble.
Fioretti should apply the same standard to himself and accept responsibility for the way Miller and Deronne were mistreated.
Unless that happens, those applying now to work on the exploratory Fioretti 2015 campaign might want to get promises in writing before taking jobs with him.