SPRINGFIELD (AP) – During hearings last summer into a scandal at Chicago’s Metra transit agency, a former executive claimed he was fired after resisting a recommendation by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to hike the pay of a Metra employee who had raised campaign money for the powerful lawmaker.
Now, after being recommended by Madigan again, that employee holds a state supervisor’s job that was crafted only after he interviewed for it, resembles the duties of his boss, and currently has no one to supervise, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The records show the state’s top civil service regulator noted the duplication of duties in initially opposing an exemption for the job from rules seeking to keep politics out of hiring decisions. When the exemption was approved, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration was able to hire Patrick Ward without considering anyone else for the $70,000 job, which ultimately was approved by the Democrat’s chief of staff.
It’s not uncommon for elected officials to put in a good word for someone they believe deserves an Illinois government job. But Ward’s hiring raises questions about the continuing role of “clout” in state government hiring decisions. Quinn and other state leaders have boasted about cleaning up the state’s practices following controversies that landed his two predecessors, Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, in prison.
CMS officials deny that Ward received special consideration. They noted the labor relations officer worked 25 years in the city of Chicago’s personnel department and has a master’s degree.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown confirmed the speaker “passed along” Ward’s resume to state officials.
“He has an outstanding work record with everything he’s done in his career,” Brown said. “Beyond that, you’d have to talk to Pat Ward.”
Ward, contacted at his Chicago office, referred all questions to the CMS media office.
Ward first came to public attention in July, when lawmakers were scrutinizing a decision by the Chicago-area Metra commuter rail line board to award a $718,000 severance agreement to former CEO Alex Clifford. Critics called the award a waste of taxpayer funds.