From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Executive Inspector General Looking At IDOT Hiring

Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Illinois State Capitol on Jan. 29.

Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Illinois State Capitol on Jan. 29. (Seth Perlman/AP)

 As Gov. Pat Quinn battles a lawsuit accusing his administration of political hiring, the state watchdog charged with investigating ethics violations is asking to get involved.

Confidentiality restrictions prevent the Inspector General from saying what he is or isn't looking into. But a letter to the Attorney General tiptoes to the very edge of admitting that there's some sort of investigation relating to hiring Illinois' Department of Transportation.

In the letter, Inspector General Ricardo Meza said the court has been informed of an inspector general investigation that "may be related to, or overlap with" allegations related to an ongoing court case.

Meza wrote in the letter that his office may assist the court with "useful information and perspectives" as it decides on a lawsuit brought by Michael Shakman.

That name may sound familiar -- he's brought about anti-patronage rulings in Chicago and Cook County. Shakman's latest lawsuit seeks a court-appointed special monitor to oversee the state hiring.

Already, the inspector general's charged with investigating violations of the state ethics law, including those governing employment.

Shakman said he welcomes Meza's participation in the lawsuit: "That's okay with us as the plaintiffs, I'm sure the judge will be interested in whatever the Inspector General may find."

But Shakman said he still believes a court monitor is needed.

"We don't feel him as a substitute for a monitor, but rather as another tool that may help ...correct a problem, a significant problem, in state employment," he said.

Earlier this month, Quinn replaced the transportation secretary.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday.