Report: Madigan, Mautino continue patronage practice
House Speaker Mike Madigan and Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino continue to operate under a patronage system that rewards loyalty with employment, even when the job candidate lacks the skills for the work, according to a court-appointed investigator in a filing published April 25.
The Illinois Policy Institute reported on the U.S. District Court for the Northeastern District of Illinois Eastern Division special master's probe of the patronage system in Illinois. The institute said Madigan has acknowledged participation at the local level as Chicago's 13th Ward committeeman — a position he has held since 1969.
“I mean, everybody wanted to be a ward committeeman," Madigan said in a 2009 interview. "They knew the power of the patronage system. They wanted a job in the patronage system. I would tell them, ‘Yes, we can put you in a job. But you’re going to work for the Democratic Party.’”
The current investigation began in 2014, when the district court directed the special master and her staff to investigate allegations of illegal patronage hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Judge Sidney Schenkier initiated the investigation after plaintiffs Michael Shakman and Paul Lurie expressed their concern that the Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) had not adequately investigated the misuse of the IDOT staff assistant position and the role of former Gov. Pat Quinn's office in bypassing the Rutan hiring requirements.
The Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois 497 U.S. 62 (1990) Supreme Court decision bars party affiliation from being considered when hiring, promoting, or transferring an employee. It also requires hiring to be done based on qualifications and merits.
The IDOT staff assistant position had long been used for preferred job candidates until Gov. Bruce Rauner eliminated it in 2016. While the Rutan decision did not allow patronage hiring, the report revealed that Illinois officials continued to use the IDOT position for their preferred candidates. The illegal hiring began under disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving a prison sentence, and continued under Quinn, the institute said.
The report detailed the abuses of the hiring system, including Madigan's influence in hiring an individual referred to as "Staff Asst. 8." Madigan's office sponsored the individual, who was hired in September 2009. Though his prior experience was listed as a bricklayer, his position at IDOT required monitoring minority-hiring complaints. He was also to maintain relationships with minority and underserved road contractors.
After being hired, Staff Asst. 8 received two unusually high raises, one after the governor reallocated his position from TM III to TM IV. He was allowed to resign in May 2014 after assaulting Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago).
A 2014 Chicago Tribune investigation revealed more than 400 current and retired government employees had connections with Madigan. They worked elections, made campaign donations, registered voters and circulated candidate petitions on behalf of Madigan.
“He’s been getting people jobs, getting promotions for his people, getting raises for his people," Illinois political commentator Rich Miller says in the documentary Madigan. Power. Privilege. Politics. "It’s what he does.”
Mautino also helped two people obtain staff assistant positions when he was a state representative. At least one was not qualified for the position, as he "lacked basic computer skills."
One of Mautino's preferred job candidates had worked for the family beer distributing business as a warehouse supervisor, according to the report. Mautino told the Chicago Tribune that the former Mautino Distributing Co. employee was an Iraq War veteran.
"Very rarely did I give recommendations to anyone unless I knew them or their families personally," Mautino told the Chicago Tribune. "I was very selective in allowing my name to be used or giving a letter of reference for them. They had to fit the job."
In addition to eliminating the staff assistant position, Rauner has worked to fire the patronage workers hired during Quinn's administration, although 42 remain on the state payroll. The governor's spokesman said the administration will ask the court to remove collective bargaining protections from improperly hired workers.
Court monitor Noelle Brennan has been assigned to monitor IDOT to prevent further patronage hiring. She will continue in her duties until the court determines otherwise.
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