A federal judge has sided with a longtime anti-patronage crusader, ruling that hiring practices at the state’s Department of Transportation have been so corrupted by political influence under Governor Pat Quinn and his predecessor that a federal monitor is now needed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier ruled Oct. 22 that a hiring monitor must be appointed to ensure compliance with anti-patronage rules.
The request for federal intervention came from Michael Shakman, a longtime crusader against political hiring. Shakman is best known for a series of court orders issued in 1972, 1979 and 1983 that bear his name, the Shakman Decrees.
Quinn had fought the hiring monitor, claiming that his administration could address the hiring scandal internally, without court oversight.
Shakman sought the hiring monitor after filing a case in April arguing that the Quinn administration, as well as the Blagojevich administration, filled positions based on political ties, rather than job qualifications.
Later, a report by the state’s Executive Inspector General confirmed much of what Shakman claimed and found that had Quinn failed to rein in patronage abuse after replaced Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In fact, 60% of those hired illegally were hired under Quinn.
In 2011 alone, the Quinn administration placed 104 persons in staff assistant positions exempt from anti-patronage rules, double the peak number hired under Blagojevich. In fact, in every year of the Quinn administration, more staff assistants were hired than in any year under Blagojevich.
After the report was released, Quinn sought to lay the blame on former state Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, who he forced to resign.
But, in August, Schneider said she and her staff received hiring recommendations directly from the Governor’s office and had to submit requests to approve hiring in the disputed positions to the Governor’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,” Schneider said at the time.