Springfield, IL - Illinois House Republicans are concerned Gov. JB Pritzker is trying to remove a federal decree that bans patronage hiring. The Shakman decrees prohibit Illinois politicians from controlling state government jobs. The decrees also created federal oversight of hiring practices in Springfield and Cook County.
Pritzker argues the state has reformed its employment practices and instituted a strong solution to prevent patronage since 1972. However, the Republicans say the state should be taking steps to strengthen the laws against unethical employment decisions. This also comes amid the criminal investigation into House Speaker Mike Madigan's involvement in a hiring scheme with ComEd.
"To claim as the governor is that Illinois has made patronage a thing of the past is to laugh in the face of facts," said Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst). "And it's to laugh in the face of hardworking taxpayers who pay for the cushy government jobs of cronies who don't deserve them."
Mazzochi says political gain should never have a say in government accountability. Meanwhile, the Pritzker administration says the state hasn't been subject to any findings of a violation of the consent decree.
"The State has instituted effective safeguards to ensure ongoing compliance," stated Press Secretary Jordan Abudeyyah. "It’s clear the House GOP never bothered to read the court filing that they are criticizing or learn anything about the Shakman case."
The Republicans addressed decrees issued in 1972, 1979, and 1983. However, Abudeyyah notes Illinois is only a party to the 1972 order. She says Illinois has achieved the decree's specific requirements and took proper steps to vacate.
Removing the system
Republicans still argue the timing of Pritzker's filing to change the process was suspicious. The Illinois Attorney General's office filed the court document on July 14. A deferred prosecution agreement between ComEd and federal investigators implicated Speaker Madigan just three days later.
"While Speaker Madigan is embroiled in one of the worst patronage hiring schemes in the history of our state, why is Governor Pritzker trying to remove a system that prevents patronage hiring and firing in government," asked Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield). "It makes no sense."
Butler also feels state employees should have protection from political manipulation. "They don't want to have to be someone's political pet to try to get a job. People just want to have a job and work hard for the state of Illinois without having any political repercussions for it."
Abudayyeh explained the Rutan case from 1990 governs political hiring. "The state, like all governments, must continue to comply fully with the requirements of Rutan," Abudayyeh added.
House GOP Spokesperson Eleni Demertzis says both cases involve political influence in regards to employment. She noted one case highlights political donations to secure jobs or avoid disciplinary action. The other decree addresses hiring and firing due to political affiliation.
"To remove one protection against political influence in state employment decisions at a time when a state-regulated company admitted in an official federal court document to hiring associates of an extremely high-level legislative official in return for legislative action that has an estimated value of at least $150 million is extremely short-sighted and ignores the unethical actions of Democratic state officials," Demertzis stated.
The caucus continues to call for a special session to address ethics reforms, including political hiring. "If Governor Pritzker is truly interested in raising the ethical bar for public officials in Illinois, rather than trying to vacate the decree, he should be seeking to expand it," said Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).