A federal judge is being asked to appoint a monitor to keep an eye on political hiring in the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The request comes in a motion filed by Michael Shakman, the plaintiff in an anti-patronage federal court case in Cook County that began in 1972 and resulted in consent decrees against patronage hiring.
Patronage hiring in all but top policy-related positions is forbidden in state government under the 1990 Rutan decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Better Government Association says perhaps 200 IDOT workers were given jobs for political reasons, and these were not policy-setting jobs that are exempt from the rules against that, says Patrick McCraney, who investigated the situation for the BGA.
According to the BGA, the jobs were posted with descriptions that contained buzzwords such as “policy” or “spokesman,” which allowed the Department of Central Management Services to declare the positions Rutan-exempt, when in reality they should not have been.
“These jobs were just basic, run-of-the-mill jobs pumping gas or working in a mail room or something like that, where it’s really – I think Shakman used the word “inconceivable” in his filing, and I think that it’s a good word here – it’s inconceivable that somebody who’s wording in a mail room would be doing policy for the governor,” McCraney said.
In addition to the appointment of a monitor, Shakman is asking that the employees in question be removed from their jobs and the jobs then be filled through a non-political hiring process.
An IDOT spokesman says the agency launched an audit “immediately” after the BGA report was published. He says at least 50 positions the administration deemed exempt from Rutan will be reclassified.