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Rauner, AG lawyers trade jabs of hypocrisy, snark over worker pay

Gov. Bruce Rauner at Mount Sinai Hospital. File Photo. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times; Attorney General Lisa Madigan at the James R. Thompson Center. File Photo. | Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Friday filed a brief in its state worker pay appeal case — painting Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as a hypocrite for trying to halt pay while still paying her own employee salaries.

The attorney general’s office fired back that the filing is full of “snark” with no “law” on the administration’s side.

State workers have been paid even without a budget because of a preliminary injunction dating back to 2015. But the Illinois Supreme Court last year overturned a ruling in a separate case that said state workers were entitled to raises even without appropriations in place.

Madigan — the daughter of Rauner’s chief nemesis House Speaker Michael Madigan — in January filed a motion to dissolve the 2015 court order, but a judge said no. She said she did so to try to put pressure on lawmakers to end the historic budget impasse. But Rauner has accused Madigan, her father and Comptroller Susana Mendoza of colluding to “force a government shutdown.”

The case is on appeal — and efforts by Madigan to bypass the appellate court for the Illinois Supreme Court were denied last month. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some 38,000 state workers, opposed Madigan’s motion.

“Even as she was preparing and then filing her motion, the Attorney General was availing herself of the very order she now asserts is barred by the Constitution,” the Rauner administration brief filed on Friday states. “The state and its employees have relied on the July 2015 Order for months, while the Attorney General stood by and similarly benefitted from the order.”

The brief claims Lisa Madigan has paid her employees $23 million from the state’s general revenue fund for employee payroll from July 1, 2016 through March 31.

The filing also warns that it will be a difficult process to determine what state workers are considered “essential” should the court order be dissolved: “If that is the case, the responsible thing for this Court to do is not to dissolve the July 2015 Order and then let chaos reign while government and courts attempt to come to some (currently undefined) resolution of which employees are essential. That process is likely to be difficult, contested, and damaging to the state, its employees, and its people.”

The brief asks that the court reaffirm the July 2015 order or to ensure “that there is no precipitous shut-off of state workers’ paychecks.”

Rauner’s general counsel Dennis Murashko on Friday accused the attorney general of using state workers as “political pawns,” an accusation Rauner has launched for months.

“In the last year, Attorney General Madigan’s employees have been paid more than $23 million using the same court order she now is attacking,” Murashko said in a statement. “If the Attorney General were truly concerned about the General Assembly passing a balanced budget, she would not be using state employees as political pawns in her attempts to create a crisis and force a government shutdown.”

The attorney general’s office on Friday said the brief is a show of “snark” with “literally no law” behind it. The issue of whether or not to pay the office’s 750 employees has never been raised and there is no law in place to say Madigan shouldn’t pay her employees – many of whom are representing Rauner’s administration in cases, officials said.

“We have a legal and ethical obligation to follow the court’s order otherwise we would be in contempt of the court,” attorney general’s office spokeswoman Maura Possley said in a statement.

Mendoza is listed as a defendant in the case, although she has not been directly involved in it. She has said she’ll continue to pay state employees until a court orders her not to do so.

2017-04-07 Brief of Defendants Rauner Hoffman and CMS AFSCME v. Rauner 5… by Scott Fornek on Scribd