SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn backed away Friday from earlier statements made by his administration that a political hiring controversy at the state transportation department had been addressed, drawing a charge from Republican Bruce Rauner’s campaign that the governor was engaging in “deception.”
In response to a federal anti-patronage lawsuit, Quinn’s administration indicated last spring it had already taken action to clean up lingering issues first raised in an August 2013 Better Government Association investigation of hiring irregularities at the Illinois Department of Transportation.
That project found that Quinn and now-imprisoned, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich ignored anti-patronage rules and hired as many as 200 “staff assistants” for jobs that should have been made available to the general public but weren’t.
But Quinn’s administration turned down a recent Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press to explain what exactly it had done to fix the alleged hiring improprieties, seemingly undercutting its claim that it had reclassified jobs and undertaken a review to fix the problems.
Asked about the apparent contradiction, Quinn told reporters at the Illinois State Fair that the records sought by the AP eventually would be released but that work within the agency hadn’t been finished yet.
“It’s going to happen. We’re in the process of doing that,” the governor said. “I’ve frozen any kind of hiring over there. We’re going to do things in the right way. That’s my only way to do things. Right now, they’re doing the reclassification. They’re not complete.”
In late July, state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza disclosed in a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan that his office was conducting its own ethics investigation into the alleged hiring irregularities raised by the BGA and that had been incorporated in a federal lawsuit against the state by noted anti-patronage lawyer Michael Shakman.
But the Rauner camp ridiculed Quinn’s explanation Friday, issuing a statement saying, “another day, another deception” from the governor.
“Pat Quinn broke his promises on taxes, jobs and education,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in the statement. “Why would we expect him to tell the truth about ending patronage hiring?”