SPRINGFIELD — A group of central Illinois Senate Republicans is asking for an expedited confirmation hearing on the nomination of Dr. David Gill to be assistant director at the Illinois Department of Public Health, although it seems unlikely they'll get it.
Gill, who earlier this year said he was considering running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 13th Congressional District again, got the appointment earlier this month from Gov. Pat Quinn on the same day that former Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis said she hoped to be the Democratic nominee in the district that reaches from Champaign-Urbana southwest to Madison County.
Senate Democrats held confirmation hearings Monday morning on a number of Quinn nominations, but Gill's was not among them.
"This is a blatant attempt by the majority party to hide a controversial appointee from the taxpayers," said Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria. "We have serious questions about the timing of Doctor Gill's appointment. More importantly, today is the last scheduled meeting of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, so he will be in place until at least the fall before a public-legislative vetting."
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the confirmation hearing could end up being delayed until next winter.
"The governor has a 60-legislative day window to make appointments that we have an opportunity to review," he said. "Because of the timing of this appointment, the confirmation could be delayed until March of 2014. We think that flies in the face of our oversight function."
Republicans attempted to portray Gill's appointment to the $127,000-a-year position as a political maneuver to clear the way for Callis.
Gill was the Democratic nominee in the district last November, losing to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, by 1,002 votes in the 14-county district.
"We think the facts leading up to the appointment suggest that this was a purely political decision by the governor, that being that Doctor Gill had expressed interest in running for Congress," Barickman said. "I also thought it was odd that when Doctor Gill was asked about this position, he said to The News-Gazette that — and I am paraphrasing — that he wasn't clear on what the position entailed. So I'd like to know what he anticipates the job being if we're going to appoint him to it."
"This doesn't pass the smell test," said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. "Frankly the check and balance here would be a hearing. That way we'd find out when were you first called? When did you get the information? Because a few weeks before this you were still planning on running for the nomination for Congress, and then, boom, on the same day ...
"We want a hearing or we want the appointment withdrawn."
But Rikeesha Phelon, a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, said, "We don't intend to change the regular scheduling and appointment process for the nominee."