Mum's the word

Mum's the word

Will loose lips sink the ship of state?

Illinois politicians have just a few rules to follow when it comes to putting their relatives on the public payroll.

— Don't violate the law.

— If you do, don't get caught.

— Especially don't get caught in an election year.

Illinois Department of Transportation Director Ann Schneider broke all three. That's why she's leaving her high-profile post without an explanation either from her or the office of Gov. Pat Quinn.

"I also want to thank Ann Schneider for her years of hard work and dedication and wish her well," Quinn was quoted in a press release announcing that Erica Borggren, the director of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, will take over at Transportation.

Gov. Quinn's office declined to expand on Schneider's impending departure, simply stating that she offered her resignation and Quinn accepted.

Why did she offer to resign? Nobody will say.

On the heels of Schneider's oust came news that two other IDOT officials were out. Mike Woods, the agency's former personnel boss, resigned while the contract for legislative liaison and former IDOT chief Gary Hannig was not renewed.

Here's the deal. Questions have been raised about illegal patronage hiring at the Transportation Department under the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations. The politicos' practice is to put their favored hires in temporary positions and then slide them over to full-time posts reserved for professional staff.

That's what Schneider did with her stepdaughter in 2006, when she was the agency's finance/administration director. The stepdaughter was hired as a part-time clerical worker and shifted to a full-time post.

That's a longstanding problem in Illinois. Taxpayers deserve to have people hired on their merits, not their connections.

The good news is that Schneider was working on borrowed time after the Better Government Association disclosed the link between her and her stepdaughter. Appearances matter, especially to a governor seeking re-election.

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