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updated: 5/12/2014 4:02 PM

Examples of hires' political connections

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Associated Press

Here are examples of state employees with political connections who were hired at the Illinois Department of Transportation under Gov. Pat Quinn.

An Associated Press review of emails and other state documents shows that dozens of government jobs involved in a dispute over whether they should be free of politics were filled with candidates who were politically involved or gave campaign money to the governor's party. The administration says the jobs should be exempt from a court ruling banning political hires because they are policy-making positions.

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. Kathleen Vehovic is the daughter of former Sangamon County Democratic Party chairman Todd Renfrow.

Vehovic was hired to a $39,000-a-year post after holding a temporary position that was "continually renewed" on a 60-day emergency basis, according to the emails. One email said Vehovic was "critical" to bureau operations because she coordinates pre-employment screening for snow removal and highway maintenance workers.

Anti-patronage activist Michael Shakman, who has challenged the hiring in federal court, said the job "obviously" should not have been exempt from state hiring rules. Vehovic did not respond to requests for comment left by phone and during a visit to her home.

. Doris Bartolotti, of Benton, is listed as the chair of the Franklin County Democratic Committee in an online county directory. Her husband and brother-in-law are county committeemen. State records show her son -- who is mayor of a small southern Illinois community -- has worked for IDOT since 2004.

Reached at her home, Doris Bartolotti -- who made about $49,000 at IDOT in 2013 -- said she would be happy to discuss her employment but needed to talk with her boss first. She later could not be reached.

. Nick Lay of Johnson County is a former county Democratic committeeman. He's listed as a technical manager IV and made $64,400 last year. When reached, he referred the AP to IDOT for comment.

. Former Alderman John Rice got his $84,000-a-year IDOT job months after losing his seat on the Chicago City Council. A 2012 report published by The New York Times about Illinois politics stated that his newly created position of safety manager was never posted, and his application was filed the same day he started work. At the time, an IDOT spokesman denied the job was created just for Rice.

Rice could not be reached for comment.

. Bill Helm was the former president of the 47th Ward Democratic Party in Chicago who has donated money to Democrats. Helm was deputy supervisor of the Cook County Forest Preserve District under then-county board President Todd Stroger but was replaced shortly after Toni Preckwinkle was elected county board president in November 2010. He was hired a few months later as a deputy director of operations at IDOT. State records show he made about $111,000 last year, but is no longer working at IDOT.

A phone message left with Helm's mother -- who confirmed he had left IDOT -- was not returned.

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