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IDOT 'Staff Assistants' Sue To Get Jobs Back

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was sued Friday by a group of former state employees who want their jobs back.

In 2016, Rauner issued a press release saying his administration had ended a “patronage hiring scandal” at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

At issue were hundreds of people who’d gotten so-called staff assistant jobs under former governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn. These were political hires into jobs that should have been protected from that sort of thing.

Attorney Don Craven says the eight workers suing Rauner eventually made their way into non-political jobs, but that didn’t save them.

He says their firing was political.

“This allegation is that these people were fired by IDOT because they’re Democrats and they refused to become affiliated with the Rauner administration,” Craven says. “That’s precisely what the first amendment says you can’t do — you can’t fire people because of their political affiliation.”

The lawsuit is seeking to get the employees reinstated — with seniority, back pay and benefits.

Asked for comment, the Rauner administration did not directly address the allegations in the lawsuit. Spokeswoman Patty Schuh says the administration has been "working hand-in-hand with the [Office of the Executive Inspector General's] hiring monitoring unit and the court-appointed special master to clean up the corrupt political system created by previous governors."

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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