Breaking News Bar
updated: 11/16/2012 9:25 PM

Hiring law broken at state agency, inspector finds

Success - Article sent! close
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- One of Gov. Pat Quinn's agencies violated hiring laws by failing to review job applicants' credentials, improperly viewing candidates' names and, in one case, hiring an employee's husband after improper intervention by the employee, according to a report released Friday.

Incorrect practices found at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity violated the same rules against political influence in hiring that first drew the attention of federal prosecutors to employment in the administration of Quinn's predecessor. Impeached and ousted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in federal prison now on unrelated political corruption charges.

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza's report found 10 abuses of hiring rules involving four current and past employees, as well as the agency itself, finding that no one at DCEO "is conducting even a cursory review of the qualifications of appointees to determine whether they meet the minimum requirements."

One ex-employee the report criticized said in a written rebuttal that "no hiring decision at DCEO was ever made in a vacuum," indicating choices had to have approval from agency managers and the state's personnel agency, the Department of Central Management Services.

Meza also found that employees broke rules governing what are supposed to be one-time, 60-day "emergency" posts by appointing some workers to four consecutive two-month assignments and giving them salaries not in accordance with state guidelines.

DCEO Director David Vaught indicated in an August response to the probe that former deputy director for human resources Bridget Devlin left the agency in May. He said employee James Jarocki, whom the probe determined lied about his educational background, resigned in September rather than face dismissal, and two remaining human resources workers, Tina Dye and Pam Eicken, had completed a counseling session on Aug. 16.

Key to the case was the determination that DCEO employees violated so-called Rutan rules designed to shelter hiring from political considerations as set down in a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court order stemming from an Illinois case.

Following abuses which launched the massive federal probe that led to Blagojevich's demise, Quinn issued an executive order in December 2009 reaffirming the Rutan principles. They require choosing qualified job candidates to interview from eligibility lists that don't include identifying information.

Quinn's office could not immediately say Friday night whether the administration is reviewing hiring procedures in other agencies to ensure compliance. Vaught's response indicated DCEO is working with Central Management Services "to strengthen hiring policies."

The report found that Devlin had violated rules by reappointing Jarocki and two unidentified workers to multiple emergency assignments and setting higher-than-allowed salaries for them, along with mentioning Dye's husband to another interviewer. A message left at an out-of-state number for Devlin was not returned Friday night.

In a written rebuttal, Devlin bashed what she said was an inaccurate, "flawed" report. She noted pressure at the time for DCEO to add staff for federal economic stimulus programs and said her hiring decisions needed approval from superiors and Central Management Services.

"I liken your allegations to a scenario in which the coach of the football team tells the quarterback what play to run, and when the play doesn't work, the fans blame it on the quarterback," Devlin wrote.

Dye was cited for asking Devlin to interview her husband for a job reserved for a "blind," Rutan-covered hire. The report does not identify Dye's husband by name but other state records show William Dye of Springfield joined DCEO in July 2010. A number listed for the Dyes is disconnected.

In a statement that accompanied the report, Dye said: "I felt and still feel that I was merely putting in a good word for an applicant. I know this is not at all uncommon in state employment."

Devlin said she made it clear the agency was not obligated to hire him but that his interview ranked second-best of five candidates for two openings.

Jarocki, one of the repeat emergency-post staffers, whom investigators say lied about the extent of his college education, declined to comment when contacted at his Chicago home.

Eicken was implicated in the reappointments and salary-level approvals and for obtaining contact information about job candidates in advance of interviews. She did not return a message left at her home.

In a written statement, Eicken too said she took direction from above and that she informed Central Management Services of all her actions without rebuke.

"Had I not completed the transactions as directed by DCEO senior management," Eicken said, "I would have been considered insubordinate."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.