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updated: 7/8/2014 9:16 PM

Shakman pushes for IDOT hiring monitor

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  • Attorney Michael L. Shakman

      Attorney Michael L. Shakman
    I. Chandler West/Sun-Times Media

 
Associated Press

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration should face federal scrutiny to ensure it complies with bans on political hiring for nonpolitical jobs, an anti-patronage lawyer argued in a Tuesday filing, which also disputes the Democratic governor's claim the monitor would undercut his authority.

Michael Shakman's 20-page filing in a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago is a response to a June 6 Quinn filing. In his, Quinn called on the court to reject Shakman's request for an investigation and the monitor, arguing the action would be superfluous and detrimental to state officials' duties -- in this case, the hiring of workers.

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But Shakman, who successfully pressed for a 1972 court decree that prohibits patronage hiring, said that was a "straw man" argument. He said the focus, at least for now, was on hiring in the Illinois Department of Transportation and he denied a monitor would wrest control from the governor.

"The role of the monitor is not to dictate, but to investigate, observe and report on whether government used improper political considerations in employment decisions," the Shakman filing says.

The governor's press office released a one-sentence statement later Tuesday that said, "We are reviewing Mr. Shakman's filing."

Shakman also rejects Quinn's assertion that the hiring allegations amount to mere speculation, pointing to recent comments by then-IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider that the agency had hired people for positions designated as political, then transferred them to nonpolitical jobs without posting the openings to the public.

Schneider resigned at the end of June, in the midst of a closely contested race for governor between Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

Shakman had zeroed in for years on Chicago. But federal oversight of the city was recently lifted after the court found it now largely complies with the Shakman Decree. In April, Shakman turned the spotlight on IDOT.

Quinn's June 6 filing blamed now-imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat and Quinn predecessor for any misconduct in hiring.

"Gov. Quinn has already taken concrete and meaningful steps to abolish any prohibited use of political considerations in state employment -- and he did so before plaintiffs filed their motion," it said.

Quinn said his office had already acted to fix any lingering hiring issues.

Shakman's filing says that remains to be seen. Quinn gave assurances before, as far back as 2009, that he was addressing the issue. But it says the "assurances, however earnestly made, cannot be relied upon" in the wake of allegations of improper hiring at IDOT.

Shakman also asks the judge again to order Quinn's office to turn over thousands of hiring-related documents.

"The Governor argues that the Court should not assume that the problems at IDOT are symptomatic of all the jobs under his control," the Tuesday filing says. "The only way to test that claim is by discovery."

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