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Hiring of state official simply doesn’t pass the smell test

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

Illinois state government has a bad reputation for cronyism and “pay-to-play” politics.

Optimists might think the investigations that put two governors in prison would deter other Illinois politicians from similar antics. But the state’s political culture never seems to change.

The latest brouhaha came to light thanks to an exclusive report from the Associated Press, and it involves Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the most powerful Democrats in the state.

It all started last summer when a former executive of Chicago’s Metra transit agency claimed he had been fired because he resisted a recommendation from Madigan to give a pay raise to a Metra employee who had raised campaign cash for the House speaker.

But did the negative publicity deter Madigan? Apparently not.

Documents obtained by the AP show that Madigan again gave a recommendation for the former Metra employee, Patrick Ward, when he was applying for a job with the state’s Department of Central Management Services.

No surprise, Ward got the job ... although the job seemingly duplicates the duties of Ward’s boss.

Records show the state’s top civil service regulator pointed out that duplication of duties while initially opposing an exemption for the job from rules intended to keep politics out of state hiring decisions. But when the exemption was approved, the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn was able to hire Ward without even considering anyone else for the job, which pays $70,000 a year.

It’s the same old story in Illinois politics; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Meanwhile, the state’s spending, budget deficits and pension debt continue to spiral out of control. Sorry, fellow Illinoisans, it appears the joke continues to be on us.

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