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updated: 5/15/2014 5:40 PM

Shakman asks to end federal oversight of Chicago hiring

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  • Attorney Michael Shakman's challenge of Chicago's patronage system nearly 40 years ago led to a decree that bans most political hiring.

    Attorney Michael Shakman's challenge of Chicago's patronage system nearly 40 years ago led to a decree that bans most political hiring.
    Associated Press/2008

Associated Press

Chicago now largely complies with bans on doling out jobs based on political connections and so a judge should order an end to federal oversight of city hiring practices, a lawyer who has crusaded against such patronage in Illinois argued in a Thursday court filing.

The request from Michael Shakman came in a joint motion in Chicago federal court. It argues that the nation's third-largest city now has effective mechanisms to stamp out the practice once widely accepted as the way things were done.

Civil litigation filed by Shakman 45 years ago led to orders, known as Shakman decrees, for the city to halt the kind of politically driven hiring that led to a popular laugh line about what Chicago officials supposedly said about jobseekers -- "We don't want nobody that nobody sent."

But in 2005, a federal judge went further after finding the city administration under then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appeared to be flouting the prohibitions, and the court ordered the federal monitor.

While Chicago may soon be off the hook, Shakman filed a complaint last month alleging some workers in Gov. Pat Quinn's transportation department were patronage hires. Quinn has said he has "zero tolerance" for any wrongdoing and has cracked down on hiring procedures since taking over in 2009.

Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's mayor since 2011, heralded Thursday's motion as a victory. He said his administration had, among other things, given an inspector general the independence and teeth to crack down on patronage hiring.

"Since the first day of my administration, we have made it a priority to take politics out of the hiring process, professionalize city government and end the decades of practices that were a stain on our city," he said.

At least one political observer, Dick Simpson, agreed.

"That doesn't mean there's no corruption," said Simpson, who teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "And some patronage is probably still going on. But Emanuel does have to be given pretty good marks."

A ruling on the motion could happen June 16, the next scheduled hearing in the case.

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