- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CHICAGO (AP) - A new report by a court-appointed watchdog charged with looking into patronage hiring at the Illinois transportation department details how friends and relatives of top Democrats were hired under former Gov. Pat Quinn, even as many had little or no experience.

The findings released Monday are the result of an inquiry that began in 2014 after a federal judge assigned a lawyer to dig into hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/2pez7uk ) reported. The move followed an report earlier that year from then-state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza, who found improper hiring began under ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich but accelerated under Quinn.

At issue were hundreds of people hired into “staff assistant” positions after administration officials bypassed strict personnel rules aimed at stopping politics from influencing Illinois hiring.

Court monitor Noelle Brennan said Quinn’s office “played a key role in the staff assistant abuse at IDOT.”

Quinn’s former chief of staff, Ryan Croke, said he had to “respectfully disagree” with the report’s conclusions.

“Gov. Quinn took his oath of office seriously,” Croke said. “He wanted for everybody working for him to do the right thing all the time. And that’s what I tried to do every day as chief of staff. When you are managing a government the size of the state of Illinois, it is inevitable that people will make mistakes. And those mistakes have to be corrected. And they were.”

The examples of questionable hiring described in the report include House Speaker Mike Madigan’s office successfully pushing a former bricklayer for a job that included “maintaining relationships” with minority road contractor. The man eventually resigned after being arrested for allegedly “physically assaulting” a then-state lawmaker.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown sent the newspaper a memo distributed to House lawmakers in 2014 that says “elected officials, like any other citizens, have a First Amendment right to make recommendations in support of candidates seeking government employment.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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