Then and now

Then and now

Will the University of Illinois' rhetoric on ethics match reality?

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen last week said "we didn't know" about the backgrounds of two relatively new employees who were subsequently implicated in a multiyear illegal patronage hiring scandal at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

That lament suggests that if university officials had known about the activities of the UI's top lobbyist Lindsay Anderson and UI Springfield Associate Chancellor Ryan Croke, they might not have hired them.

Well, they know now. How they respond to the disclosures outlined in a recent court-ordered report on the illegal hiring will speak volumes about the institution's response to a clear ethical problem.

The report on the 2009-14 illegal hiring at IDOT was prepared by outside monitor Noelle Brennan and filed with a Chicago federal Magistrate Sidney Schenkier, who is overseeing the matter in connection with litigation that challenged the state's hiring practices.

The report is a portrait of government at its worst, one that features top aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn who were clearly trying to get around ironclad hiring rules to assist clouted job candidates. Further, Brennan's report states that when questioned about their activities, these individuals responded in a manner that was "not credible." In other words, they lied about what they did and why they did it.

So far, the UI's response has not been confidence-inspiring. UI spokesman Tom Hardy reported that President Killeen instructed subordinates to examine the 89-page report and advise him on what action, if any, to take.

Other than that, the UI has tried to bury the issue in discussions about re-examining hiring procedures and additional ethics training to ensure university employees know the rules. President Killeen also praised Anderson and Croke, calling them "solid performers" since they've joined the UI.

But that begs the real issue: What's the UI going to do about two employees who were thoroughly enmeshed in an illegal hiring scheme whose goal was to load the IDOT payroll with politically connected job seekers without regard to whether they were qualified or whether there were even positions open?

The Brennan report makes it clear that Croke and Anderson were among those top aides to former Gov. Quinn who ignored the legal prohibition against patronage hiring. The report also described in detail what steps Croke, Anderson and others took to ensure clouted employees were added to the IDOT payroll.

Interestingly enough, Quinn last week unconvincingly denied any role in the misconduct. He said he had "nothing to do with hiring" and instructed his subordinates to concern themselves with only the relative handful of top policy-making positions open to political appointment.

"That was the rule," Quinn told The Chicago Tribune.

The ban on patronage hiring for the vast majority of state jobs is the rule. But top officials in the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations went to great lengths to break it.

Some might write that off as traditional politics, and they'd be right, to a degree. But patronage hiring has been illegal in Illinois since a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

So in reviewing the matter, UI officials must acknowledge a report that charges Anderson and Croke knowingly violated the law, that they did so for political reasons and were less than forthcoming when questioned about their conduct by a representative of a federal court.

Further, in pushing employment for clouted employees, they denied job opportunities to ordinary people seeking employment with the state. In pushing unqualified people, regardless of whether jobs were even available, they actively pushed policies that squandered precious tax dollars at a time when state finances were spiraling out of control.

So for President Killeen to praise Anderson and Croke as "top performers" now hardly cleanses them of the mud in which they wallowed then.

The UI has had its share of ethical issues over the past few years. There was the Category I admissions scandal, in which clouted applicants were admitted to the university because of their political patrons. There was the UI law school admissions scandal in which a top official fudged law students' qualifications to meet admission goals.

In both instances, top UI officials stated that the institution must adhere to the highest standards of conduct.

Well, here's where the rubber meets the road.

Was that just impressive-sounding rhetoric subject to situational ethics? Or is doing the right thing, as best it can be determined, really a standard that cannot be compromised at this world-class educational institution?

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rsp wrote on May 17, 2017 at 9:05 am

Makes you really want to know how they got those jobs, doesn't it. What did they list for job experience?

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Munger?

There is enough political corruption to go around in both parties.  Two wrongs do not make it right though.  Of course, only one wrong is always reported on by the NG.  What is the difference between a journalistic newspaper, and a political blog?

CommonSenseless wrote on May 18, 2017 at 8:05 am

Except Leslie Munger had mountains of experience as a corporate executive and was legally appointed in a political position by the Governor. Sid your arguments are getting weak. Or maybe you think her daddy gave her a business too.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 18, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Keep up with the news.  She was given a cushy, well paying job by Rauner after losing her election.  I do not know about her daddy; but she has money going to Rauner from some source.  Losing an election, and getting an appointed job by Rauner does not come without money going somewhere.  You might as well feel sorry for poor ole' Jim Cellini for his deal in buying state properties, and leasing them back to the state.  Party politics means nothing to Bill.  It is just business as usual with the democrats, and the republicans.

The point is both political parties in Illinois are corrupt from the bottom to the top.  People appointed, or elected may start out honest, but leave dirty.  Until people start losing the Red versus the Blue mentality, corruption will continue.