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IDOT Layoffs Halted, But Quinn Wants To Proceed

Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn wants to proceed with getting rid of dozens of Illinois Department of Transportation employees. The layoffs won't happen for at least another month.

Gov. Quinn doesn't claim the layoffs as his idea; rather, he says it was his newly-appointed IDOT Secretary, Erica Borggren, who came up with the "reorganization" that'll leave some 58 employees out of work.

"We're willing to wait for the court decision. But she's committed to making this reorganization; I think that will prevail," Quinn said Wednesday. "If there's an opportunity for everyone to have their voice heard in court, so be it."

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell echoed that, saying "We are moving full-speed ahead with overhauling the agency."

But the union which represents most of those employees, says it's not a reorganization at all. It's a way to give Quinn political cover as he faces a tough re-election against Republican Bruce Rauner. The Teamsters are fighting to keep their jobs; a new court agreement lets them, until another hearing, scheduled for Oct. 28.

"For those 55 folks who were going to get laid off Sept. 30 it's a victory; they keep their jobs for another month. Is it the final victory? No. We're still going to have to go through the arbitration process," Teamsters attorney Don Craven said."These folks -- some of them have worked at IDOT for more than ten years. They're certified employees, they've been in these positions for many years, doing everything that their manages have asked them to do at IDOT, and they're entitled to keep their positions."

But the issue is less with how well they're done their jobs or not; it's about how these "staff assistants" got hired.

An inspector general's report says under Quinn, IDOT allowed a practice that began during Rod Blagojevich's time as governor, to continue. Essentially, IDOT skirted hiring rules, so people with clout could get state jobs. Political consideration is only allowed to be taken into account for limited positions. The report says IDOT created the "staff assistant" job description to allow for political hiring, when instead the work involved things like mowing the lawn, that would not have been exempt from hiring restrictions.

A separate, ongoing lawsuit brought by attorney Michael Shakman accuses the administration of an embedded culture of patronage.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf calls the delay in layoffs a "broken promise." Rauner has repeatedly criticized Quinn for refusing to fire 103 state workers who were hired as "staff assistants" but who since moved on to other posts.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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