Gov. Pat Quinn said his own department heads should follow hiring rules he’s laid out — even when they’re considering recommendations from the governor’s office.
Quinn made the remarks at a Chicago news availability on Tuesday in the wake of an Illinois Department of Transportation hiring scandal. It came in response to a Sun-Timesreport that former IDOT Director Ann Schneider blamed Quinn, saying it was the governor’s office and not her personally responsible for filling non-political positions with political hires.
“I was very angry when I heard about what was going on and took immediate action,” Quinn told reporters on Tuesday of the IDOT scandal. “My job as governor is to take responsibility and always be accountable.”
When asked how that squared with Schneider sayingshe felt pressured by the governor’s office to fill non-political jobs with political hires, Quinn responded this way:
“The bottom line is all directors, all departments have a duty to make sure that they comply with the rules I’ve set down,the rules that are set in law, I expect that I and expect accountability from those who are secretaries or directors of departments,” Quinn said. “When that isn’t done, there’s accountability and I took action.”
The campaign of Quinn’s November challenger Bruce Rauner called Quinn’s explanation“an insult to Illinoisans.”
A report released Friday by state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza alleged that “countless” legitimate job applicants for state jobs were sidestepped by hundreds of political appointees installed in state transportation jobs for which politics weren’t supposed to play a role.
Meza’s report centered on four former IDOT employees, including two ex heads of the sprawling state bureaucracy for presiding over the allegedly improper hiring scheme but largely was silent on the governor’s office playing a direct role.
But former Schneider said in a rebuttal to Meza’s report that it was the governor’s office and not her personally responsible for filling non-political positions with political hires.
“It is my recollection that [the] vast majority of Rutan-exempt hires were chosen from those recommended to me or my staff by the governor’s office,” Schneider said, referring to the landmark Rutan U.S. Supreme Court opinion that placed limits on political hiring in government jobs.
“The governor’s office would have been provided resumes of all such candidates and would have requested that we complete the process of having the recommended person approved for the open position,” she said.
Schneider went on to say that she felt unable to turn away any recommended hires pushed by Quinn’s office.
“Neither I nor my staff were in a position to reject the recommended individuals for these exempt positions as no additional interview process was required,” she said.
Meza outlined how the hiring of so-called staff assistant positions, jobs where politics shouldn’t have entered the picture but seemingly did, spiked at IDOT under Quinn. In 2011, the second year of his governorship, 104 of those positions existed in the agency, exactly double the number that the agency had in 2008, the last full year of Rod Blagojevich’s governorship.
Separately, Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman confirmed thatDeputy Chief of Staff Sean O‘Shea is leaving work with the state on Friday to take a job in the private sector. Klinzman said O’Shea’s departure was unrelated to the IDOT patronage scandal. However, some of his duties involved overseeing IDOT.