Ethics watchdog asks for voice in Quinn political hiring lawsuit

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SPRINGFIELD — State Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza Thursday asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to file legal paperwork to enable him to be heard in a federal lawsuit seeking a court-appointed monitor to delve into alleged political-hiring improprieties under Gov. Pat Quinn.

Meza wants Madigan to appear on his behalf to enable him to weigh in on a federal lawsuit brought by attorney Michael Shakman, the noted anti-patronage lawyer from Chicago who has won legal victories limiting political hiring in Chicago and Cook County.

Shakman, who described Meza’s move as “pretty unusual” but stressed he welcomed it, has sued Quinn and others, citing a Better Government Association investigation that found Quinn’s administration hired and improperly reclassified hundreds of jobs within the Illinois Department of Transportation so that politics could be a determination in personnel moves in violation of a 1972 U.S. anti-patronage Supreme Court ruling.

In his letter to Madigan, Meza disclosed that his office is conducting an investigation that “may be related to, or overlap with, allegations that have been made in this matter.”

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His involvement in the case, Meza reasoned, may provide “the court with useful information and perspectives that may aid the court in determinig whether any relief should be granted and, if so what form any such relief should take.”

A Madigan spokesman said the attorney general’s office has confirmed with Meza that it will represent him.

A Quinn spokesman indicated the governor’s office would respond to the letter later Thursday afternoon .

Shakman, meanwhile, said he does not view Meza’s request as being “inconsistent with what we’re doing.”

“I read the letter saying the inspector general has statutory duties that include some of the same subject matter we’re dealing with at the federal courthouse and through our request for a federal monotiror so he’d like to have a chance to appear before the court and address what should be done,” Shakman told Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times’ online political portal. “That’s fine. Maybe we’ll agree with him. Maybe we won’t.” 

Letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan

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