A new report says the Illinois Department of Transportation loaded its staff with more than 250 do-little patronage hires, including three it says were tied to former Quad City Congressman Phil Hare.
The report by the Inspector General concludes that the state agency broke hiring rules for years to reward political allies.
It found that from 2003 to 2013, friends, relatives, and political supporters of officeholders were hired as “staff assistants,” a job that the agency declared it could fill without interviews or publicly posting it.
The report found the number of IDOT “staff assistants” tripled from 2004 to 2014, and says instead of performing policy duties, they worked as tree planters, car washers, and secretaries, in some cases making more money than their supervisors.
In many cases, the Inspector General says, those employees were then transferred, without an interview, into jobs covered by hiring rules. The jobs higher paying, and tough to lose.
Former Democratic Congressman Phil Hare is mentioned in the report several times. The report states at least three people were hired onto IDOT as “staff assistants” with strong Hare connections; two were hired within weeks after Hare lost his re-election bid in 2010.
“IDOT hired several persons whose immediate prior positions were as staffers for Congressman Phil Hare,” the report says.
“The OEIG investigation discovered that at around the time Mr. Hare left office, IDOT absorbed several staffers who previously worked for him,” the report says.
One was hired two weeks after Hare left office, another three weeks later. The other staffer was hired March 2010.
The report says investigators questioned Former Bureau Chief of Personnel Management Mike Woods Jr. about the hirings. He denied any political influence and said, “I would say it’s a coincidence.”
Quinn’s office laid off 58 of the staff assistants on Thursday, one day before the IOEG was released publicly.
“There was clearly agency mismanagement at the highest levels regarding the the responsibilities they had,” said Riccardo Meza, Executive Inspector General.
The impropriety “undoubtedly denied countless qualified candidates the opportunity to lawfully obtain state employment,” the report states.