Inspector's Report Reveals Clout Hiring At IDOT

Aug 25, 2014

The Office of Executive Inspector General released a lengthy report detailing hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation that defy the spirit of rules set up to separate political allegiances from employment decisions.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' Executive Inspector General says he has not spoken with federal prosecutors about a 245 page report released Friday. It details a swath of hiring mismanagement at the state's transportation department.

Inspector General Ricardo Meza took the unusual step of holding a press conference to explain the report, which focuses on a practice for which Illinois government has become infamous: patronage.

"There's no doubt, and we made findings, that there was clearly agency mismanagement at the highest levels regarding the responsibilities that they had relating to the Rutan process," Meza says.

The Rutan process is government code for determining which positions can take politics into account, and which jobs should instead go to the best qualified candidate, regardless of their political allegiance.

Meza's investigation found that the department of transportation, or IDOT, consistently created positions that allowed them to make political hires, even for jobs like mowing lawns. Some of the hires had Democratic ties.

Meza says he found no indication that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was directly involved, though the governor's office signs off on political hires.

Quinn has replaced Illinois' last transportation secretary, and in advance of the inspector general report's release, on Thursday revealed changes in hiring practices at the agency.