News Local/State

Quinn Agrees To Stall Dismissal Of IDOT Workers


Nearly five dozen Illinois Department of Transportation employees have been given a temporary reprieve from layoff because of a court agreement by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.

Quinn's lawyers agreed late Monday in Sangamon County Circuit Court to disregard the Sept. 30 dismissal date for 58 so-called "staff assistants'' until they have a hearing before a judge, according to Carl Draper, one of the Springfield-based attorneys for the workers.
Eliminating the staff assistant's position was part of a reform Quinn announced last month after a blistering report about improper hiring at the agency. But the Teamsters union, which represents the workers, filed  a lawsuit to block the dismissals.
Draper said a status hearing would be scheduled for late this month. He would not comment further.
The staff assistant's position is central to an investigation released last month by the Office of the Executive Inspector General. It found that for 10 years, 255 people were hired into the position through improper maneuvering to skirt rules designed to keep political considerations out of hiring decisions.
Dozens of Democrats and those with political clout were hired into what were supposed to be policymaking posts, people privy to confidential information or public spokesmen, Inspector General Ricardo Meza found.

Those jobs are free to be filled at a governor's pleasure by whomever he chooses, free of U.S. Supreme Court "Rutan'' rules that require hiring based on merit only.
But Meza's investigation found those people were often doing routine tasks such as mowing lawns and answering phones.