Just say no to Quinn nominee
Illinois needs first-rate people to run its important state agencies, not marginal characters with ethical clouds swirling around them.
Party loyalty in Springfield is such that it's routine for senators in the majority party to confirm marginal nominees if the nomination is made by a governor of the same party.
Let's hope that sorry tradition of indifferent legislative oversight is ignored for Arthur Bishop, Gov. Pat Quinn's choice to lead the Department of Children and Family Services.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Bishop pleaded guilty in the early 1990s to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft stemming from an allegation that he swindled clients of a social agency where he worked out of more than $9,000.
Equally disturbing, when Bishop was sued in a child paternity case, he denied knowing anything about the child. It turns out that he never paid a dime to support her until the child's mother sued him for child support and insurance coverage when his daughter was in her mid-teens.
It's hard to know what possessed Gov. Quinn to nominate such a marginal character to head this important, but deeply troubled, state agency. But it sends a message of disinterest, if not disdain, for both the agency's work and for public opinion.
Don't the people of Illinois deserve better than a nominee with such a checkered background? It's bad enough that Bishop has held jobs high up in state government — he headed the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice — but to put him in charge of DCFS is beyond the pale.
Bishop adamantly denied that he was involved in any theft while he worked at the Chicago-based mental health center, stating that he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge because he was tired of fighting the charge. He insisted he was the victim of trumped-up charges levied by a hostile boss.
But the allegations are serious — that he told clients of the center that he could help them get their driver's licenses back if they made payments to him. The scheme was allegedly uncovered when one of the clients complained to Bishop's superior that he had been instructed to write a check directly to Bishop, not the center.
The center actually had no role in helping clients secure driving privileges. After firing Bishop, the center was required to reimburse the clients for the money they allegedly paid to Bishop.
As bad as that is, Bishop's abandonment of his daughter is even worse. DCFS is supposed to look out for the welfare of children. Bishop ignored the welfare of his own daughter.
This appointment, however, says less about Bishop than it says about Quinn's judgment and the willingness of the Illinois Senate to take its oversight duties seriously. Quinn, a Democrat, has failed his test; people should hope members of the Democratic-controlled Senate, including local state Sen. Mike Frerichs, do better.