#21 Jun 13, 2013
Editorial: Cullerton, Madigan and the culture of failure
New life for a bad idea
Gov. Pat Quinn breathed new life into a bad idea this week when he suggested the way to pension reform could be to marry competing bills in the House and Senate. He sold this as a bid for compromise. It is not. It is a gimmick.
Such a hybrid bill would include the pension reform plan proposed several weeks ago by House Speaker Michael Madigan and passed by the House. That plan, which this page supported, would require state workers and other public employees to pay more into their pension plans, curb the rise in cost-of-living-adjustments for retirees and achieve other savings. It has genuine, substantial savings.
Here's the gimmick. The bill also would include the union-backed pension plan proposed by Senate President John Cullerton. That offers state workers a choice — give up subsidized retiree health care or accept a modest curb in pension benefit growth. Independent assessments find that the Cullerton plan falls woefully short of what's needed to resolve the state's pension crisis — perhaps one-third the savings of the Madigan plan.
The hybrid part? If the courts found that the Madigan plan ran afoul of the Illinois Constitution, the Cullerton plan would automatically kick in.
We know this: If the Madigan pension plan didn't pass muster with the courts, the Cullerton plan would not be a suitable backup. It would not solve the pension crisis. It wouldn't come close.
The state would still be robbing money from schools and health care and public safety and pouring it into the retirement system.
We'll chalk up Quinn's move this week to frustration. He wants to broker a pension agreement, but he can't bridge the Madigan-Cullerton impasse. And there's plenty of suspicion that good buddies Madigan and Cullerton aren't really at impasse, they're just gaming everybody; failure, for some reason, suits them.
Quinn has called a special session of the legislature for June 19 to deal with pensions. The governor met Tuesday with House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno, still searching for ideas. Quinn, at least, is keeping the conversation moving.
Is there room for compromise? Sure — on what mix of changes to contributions and benefits you negotiate to achieve the cost savings needed to resolve the pension crisis. But a deal that greatly ratchets down the savings projected by the Madigan plan won't be a compromise, it will be a cynical effort to tell taxpayers: problem solved. Except the problem won't be solved.
You wonder, do Madigan, Cullerton and Quinn hear the tenor of the early campaign for governor in 2014? Republican Bruce Rauner and Democrat Bill Daley are launching campaigns based squarely on the notion that Springfield leaders — that's you, Mr. Madigan, Mr. Cullerton, Mr. Quinn — have completely failed the citizens of this state.
That holds for every legislator who takes cover behind the Alphonse and Gaston routine played out by the House and Senate leaders.
And who would disagree?
#22 Jun 13, 2013
There really is more than plenty of suspicion that good buddies Madigan and Cullerton aren't at an impasse, they're putting on a skit to promote their preferred candidate.
#23 Jun 13, 2013
Corruption still isn't funny!
#24 Jun 14, 2013
Lawmakers are sinking Illinois. Example: Sen. Linda Holmes
Rank-and-file lawmakers are sinking Illinois.
At a meeting this week, House Speaker Michael Madigan urged Gov. Pat Quinn to help get pension reform out of the Senate.
"Let me say it again: The best pension bill passed so far, and the one that does the most cost savings, is the House bill, and that's in the Senate," Madigan said. "The governor ought to work to get that passed."
Mind if we make a suggestion, governor, on an arm that merits twisting?
Madigan's more aggressive pension bill — the one that would help dig Illinois out of debt more quickly — went down in flames. So-called tea party conservatives who preach fiscal responsibility voted against it, along with Democrats who allowed the pension system to blow out of control in the first place. Senators in both categories should have been on board.
So let's review the roll call. Over the next few days, leading up to the Wednesday special session called by Quinn, we'll write about some of the rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans who ignore their constituents' best interests and stand in the way of saving Illinois.
Today we take a look at state Sen. Linda Holmes.
Holmes is an Aurora Democrat and former small business owner elected in 2006. She delivered a blistering speech against Madigan's more aggressive pension reform bill from the Senate floor. Bellowing into her microphone, she condemned the bill as unconstitutional and unfair. State workers and teachers paid into the pension funds for years, she said. The state shortchanged them, she said as some of her colleagues applauded and cheered.
Here's the thing: The "state" that Holmes decried means her own Democratic Party leaders who decided in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 to pass state budgets that shifted money to schools, public transportation and health care instead of making full pension payments. During two of those years, the pension funds received $2.3 billion less than they should have. And Attorney General Lisa Madigan, now weighing a run for governor, wrote an opinion that the diversion was legal.
The lead paragraph of a 2005 Tribune story began: "Confounded over how to close a gaping budget hole, Democrats who control Illinois government agreed Thursday on a two-year plan to divert hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked to underfunded state pension plans and use it for schools and other programs."
House Republican leader Tom Cross called it a "pension scam."
That was eight years ago. Eight. Years.
In 2010 when Holmes had a few years of experience under her belt, the Democrats left Springfield without a firm budget. Senate President John Cullerton and Madigan sent Quinn a budget blueprint that all but ignored the $3.6 billion owed to the pension systems that year. They just ... skipped full payments or delayed them, for years.
These are the leaders of Holmes' party; these were budgets she and her party passed.
If she wanted to rescue the system, she had seven years to work on pensions. To raise red flags. To call out her own party's leaders.
The unfunded pension liability has nearly doubled since 2002, when the Democrats took charge of the legislature and the governor's mansion.
In Holmes' district, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, has been working with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to push for local pension relief. Weisner served on Quinn's Pension Modernization Task Force, which recommended many of the changes Holmes voted down.
Taxpayers at a recent Aurora school meeting asked why their property tax bills were skyrocketing. The explanation: State education funding was cut because of budget pressures (read: pensions). This, after Holmes and the Democrats pushed through an income tax hike from 3 percent to 5 percent two years ago, promising it would help the state catch up on its runaway debt.
Holmes is a co-sponsor of Cullerton's pension bill, which the unions support, but which doesn't go far enough to dig Illinois out of its pension hole.
#25 Jun 14, 2013
Perhaps if the legislature — and the unions, which spend millions electing candidates who promise not to touch pensions — had acted responsibly back in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Cullerton's less painful idea to target compounded cost-of-living adjustments to reduce the pension burden would be enough.
It's not. Not today. Not after years — decades — of pension gimmicks. Not when Illinois boasts the worst unfunded pension liability in the nation. Not when lawmakers have proved themselves incapable of fixing the mess.
Sen. Holmes: Your House counterpart, freshman state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, voted for Madigan's tougher pension bill. She recognized it does more to help stabilize the system. You represent the same constituents.
Won't you join her?
#26 Jun 14, 2013
Our View: Madigan exposed on pension fix
SouthtownStar editorial June 13, 2013
During the years-long debate over making changes to the state’s public pension systems, there has been plenty of finger-pointing as to who’s to blame for it not getting accomplished.
And a lot of people have had a hand in thwarting reform — from the legislative leaders of both parties, factions within the House and Senate, the public employee unions, lobbyists, other outside influences, even Gov. Pat Quinn.
After the pension bill failed to pass the Legislature this spring, the maneuvering since has made it apparent who the main obstructionist is — House Speaker Michael Madigan. And unless the state’s most powerful politician agrees to a reasonable compromise on the table, pension reform will be the major issue before the General Assembly again in 2014.
The severity of Illinois’ pension funding shortfall has been outlined ad nauseam. The pension plans are woefully underfunded, the state’s long-term liability is nearing $100 billion, and its annual pension bill is about $5 billion and rising, sucking up an ever-larger portion of the state budget. This spring, the Legislature, with the Democrats in firmer control than ever, hoped to finally pass a reform bill. But the House and Senate, or more accurately Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), could not agree, each stubbornly sticking to his bill as the best solution.
Madigan’s bill has bigger changes and would save the state more money but is of questionable constitutionality. Cullerton’s bill has a better chance of getting court approval but doesn’t save nearly as much. Trying to break the deadlock, Quinn called a special legislative session for next Wednesday and met this week with the two Democratic leaders.
He and Cullerton suggested a compromise — combine the two pension bills, with Madigan’s taking precedence and Cullerton’s being moot unless the Illinois Supreme Court finds Madigan’s unconstitutional. Seems sensible to us. But not to Madigan, who arrogantly insists his bill is the only option and seems to think he can force Cullerton into caving.
We don’t see that happening. Cullerton would have to swallow his pride and would look weak to Senate Democrats. It looks like the special session will be a waste of time.
#27 Jun 14, 2013
House speaker has no answers
Asking or waiting for Mike Madigan to fix the pension fund problem in Illinois is like asking Mayor Richard Daily to help fix Chicago's parking meter problem.
Did anyone notice how Mike Madigan scurried down the back steps of his office when being confronted by the news people?
And the voters in his district keep re-electing him as their rep. What is wrong with these people?
This man wants to constantly evade any and all questions pertaining to the pension problem.
Why? Because he has no answer to the problem he created.
#28 Jun 14, 2013
Good buddies Madigan and Cullerton put on a skit to promote their preferred candidate. Is their "candidate" electable?
#29 Jun 17, 2013
Bill Daley attacks Quinn, Lisa Madigan on pension reform
Democratic candidate for governor says leadership lacking on issue
Bill Daley, a Democratic candidate for governor, said Gov. Pat Quinn has lacked leadership on the pension reform issue.
Democratic governor candidate Bill Daley injected campaign politics into the simmering policy debate on public pension reform Monday, chastising Gov. Pat Quinn for a lack of leadership and potential candidate Attorney General Lisa Madigan for remaining mum on the issue.
The comments come ahead of Wednesday's special session called by Quinn to try to get lawmakers to resolve a government employee pension debt that's approaching $100 billion and eating up money that otherwise could be spent on education, health care or paying down billions in old bills.
Daley, a former White House chief of staff and Cabinet member and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, accused the Democratic governor of vacillating in support of a variety of proposals rather than sticking to a plan. "That's not the way you lead," Daley said.
Daley also brought up Quinn's failed effort last fall to generate grass-roots public support for pension reform by unveiling a cartoon character called "Squeezy the Pension Python."
"I guess he didn't squeeze too many people, much less impress many people," Daley said during a 20-minute downtown news conference, his first since announcing an exploratory campaign against Quinn in the March 2014 primary election.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor alone cannot enact pension reform and laid blame with the legislature's Democratic leaders.
"The reality is that pension reform will not be law in Illinois until the speaker of the House and Senate president work together in good faith to put the bill on the governor's desk," she said. "Refusal to work together in good faith is costing taxpayers $17 million a day."
In a move steeped in political irony, Daley endorsed a pension reform plan backed by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan — the father of potential rival governor candidate Attorney General Madigan — over a competing but smaller plan supported by Senate President John Cullerton.
Daley also chided the attorney general for not offering a legal opinion on which of the competing pension proposals — her father's or Cullerton's — would be constitutional. Daley said Quinn and lawmakers should have asked her for a legal opinion long ago.
On Wednesday, lawmakers will return to Springfield after failing to address Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension debt before leaving town May 31. Little is expected to happen in the special session because Speaker Madigan and Cullerton are at odds over how to move forward.
Daley sided with the more expansive pension proposal pushed by the House speaker and cited its potential cost savings of $187 billion over the next 30 years. Daley said Quinn should have made clear he would veto Cullerton's plan, which would produce less savings. Daley also said that to encourage passage, at least 51 percent of annual savings from pension reforms should be earmarked to education.
Madigan's plan would require workers to pay more toward their pensions, scale back cost-of-living increases and raise the retirement age. Cullerton's countermeasure, backed by public employee unions, would offer workers choices, such as giving up access to state health care in exchange for keeping full pension benefits.
#30 Jun 17, 2013
Mike is doing a fantastic job of making a fool of himself and his daughter too with
Bill Daley and Bob Rita running interference.
#31 Jul 2, 2013
Put Aside Distractions, Focus on Illinois’ Fiscal Mess
There are plenty of big stories in the media, enough to satiate even the hungriest news junkie. But it also means a lot of important political and governmental stories fall below the radar screen.
By Andy Shaw/BGA
Presidential debates. Congressional races. Budget battles. Crime sprees. Da’ Bears. Da’ Bulls. Jesse Jackson Jr.
That’s more than enough to satiate the hungriest news junkie. But it also means a lot of important political and governmental stories fall below the radar screen. And those stories, taken collectively, remind us the road to reform in Illinois is more challenging than a Chicago side street after a snowstorm.
The biggest story came in a report by a group of respected financial experts, led by former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, calling Illinois "a mess" and rating our financial condition worst in the country.
Too much spending, borrowing and "budget gamesmanship," they wrote, and not enough revenue, tax reform and strategic planning.
"Illinois’ budget is not fiscally sustainable," the report concluded, with one expert adding this chilling prediction: "I think it’s going to reach a point where there’s either social disorder or bankruptcy before people will act."
The problem, as we see it from our watchdog perch, is that government is set up to serve the politicians first and the public last, so decisions are frequently based on self-interest, not public interest.
And that was graphically illustrated by some of the other recent stories that got too little attention. For instance:
We learned that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas broke the rules in the 1990’s, when she was a county commissioner, by accepting homeowner exemptions on three personal properties, when only one is allowed. She and her husband refunded the undeserved savings of more than $5,000 after the BGA and CBS 2 raised the issue.
How widespread is this abuse?
The Sun-Times reported a nephew of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios landed a job in Secretary of State Jesse White’s office five weeks after Berrios hired the son of White’s chief of staff.
Both offices deny any tit-for-tat but this is the latest ethics controversy for Berrios, who was recently fined $10,000 by the county’s Ethics Board for violating a nepotism ban by hiring two relatives.
Are any of these jobs even necessary?
We’re not saying Pappas, Berrios and White are poster children for our government woes. In fact, they’ve all implemented welcome reforms in their offices.
And we’re not condemning all top officials. The new administrations in Chicago, and in Cook and Du Page counties, are taking steps to improve fairness, honesty, accountability, efficiency and transparency.
Even in Springfield, where the biggest financial and policy decisions are made, and government is arguably most dysfunctional, leaders are starting to realize that business as usual is unsustainable.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose three decades of iron-fisted leadership makes him the reform crowd’s Number 1 target, blames the dysfunction on lawmakers "afraid to do the heavy lifting."
But beyond the blame game is a system in desperate need of cultural and structural changes that begin with an attitude adjustment and a new mindset.
It’s an extraordinarily difficult task that is absolutely necessary because Illinois, like the Titanic, is not unsinkable. But we have to see the looming iceberg before the captain did in 1912, so we don’t sink a century later.
#32 Jul 3, 2013
Bloomberg money boosted and influenced the congressional election as it will the race for governor with Quinn, Daley, Madigan.
#33 Jul 10, 2013
Governor suspends lawmakers' salaries in Illinois pension stalemate
Gov. Pat Quinn announces Wednesday in Chicago that he has used his line-item veto power to suspend the pay of state lawmakers.
Lawmakers 'have failed to act'
Gov. Pat Quinn announces pay suspended
Accelerating an increasingly bitter feud with the General Assembly, Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the pay of state lawmakers Wednesday, saying he believed the best way for legislators to reach a long-sought fix to Illinois' massive public worker pension debt was to "hit them in the wallet."
Quinn used his veto powers to zero-out the $13.8 million budget for legislative salaries and leadership stipends, effectively eliminating the state's ability to send lawmakers their Aug. 1 paychecks. The governor said that until now taxpayers — not lawmakers — have had to pay for the legislature's failure to resolve an unfunded pension liability that has grown to more than $100 billion through higher borrowing costs, lower credit ratings and money squeezed from social services.
#34 Jul 10, 2013
Action that is long over due!
#35 Jul 11, 2013
By Thomas Frisbie - July 10, 2013
New effort to keep pols out of redrawing legislative districts
Ryan Blitstein is senior adviser to Yes for Independent Maps.
Remember the Fair Map amendment? Back in 2010, supporters were gathering signatures, hoping to take the power to redraw Illinois’ legislative districts away from politicians and give it to an independent bipartisan commission.
The politicians won that round, and drew the maps we have today. Now, reform forces are pushing a new constitutional amendment for the 2014 ballot that would create an 11-member independent redistricting commission. They need more than 298,000 signatures by May 14, 2014, to get on the ballot the following November. That’s a lot, but it’s also doable.
Around the country, politicians have used new technologies to take gerrymandering to a new level. The party that controls the redistricting can do a much better job than in the past of inflating its own power and marginalizing the competition.
Yes for Independent Maps, a new coalition of statewide groups, says the result in Illinois is that 97 percent of legislative incumbents won in the general election, and in two-thirds of the races, there was no challenger.
Ryan Blitstein, senior adviser to the campaign for the constitutional amendment, said the new effort is building on the work of the Fair Map proponents.
“In 2010, they were really just getting ball rolling,” Blitstein said.“One of the reasons that you see such strong citizen interest in this issue is that coalition spent a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money and a lot of people resources to go out and tell folks in the state about this.”
Voter interest also has been built up by the recent “behind closed doors” redistricting process, which took place after the Fair Map effort, he said.
“If you talk to voters, as we have, and you look at the polls, you will see that there is just extraordinary frustration on the part of the citizens,” Blitstein said.”… The people are really interested in being put back in charge.”
Now, many voters don’t have the power to hold their legislative representatives accountable, he said. Instead, those lawmakers are responsible to legislative leaders who control redistricting and dole out campaign money.
Because of redistricting abuses, most voters don’t have the power to hold their legislative representatives accountable, he said. Instead, those lawmakers are more responsible to legislative leaders who control redistricting and dole out campaign funds.
Groups that are part of the Yes coalition include Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago; Business and Professional People for the Public interest; CHANGE Illinois; Chicago Appleseed; Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; Citizen Advocacy Center; Common Cause; Illinois Public Interest Research Group; Latino Policy Forum; Metropolis Strategies; Openlands, and Reboot Illinois.
#36 Jul 11, 2013
Attorney: Mike Madigan pressured Metra to give employee raise
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND NEIL STEINBERG Staff
Metra chair: Ex-CEO threatened to sue, wanted more than $700,000
STEINBERG: Madigan Metra call? Not political!
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:00PM
Speaker of the House Michael Madigan pressured Metra to give his friend a raise, the railroad’s own outside counsel explained to Rep. Deb Mell (D-40th) House Mass Transit Committee Thursday — but it wasn’t political.
“Elected officials don’t lose their First Amendment rights to talk to people,” Joseph Gagliardo testified, during a hearing trying to determine why the Metra board agreed to pay its outgoing CEO, Alex Clifford, up to $500,000 more than the $194,000 his contract, set to expire in February 2014, required.
“Speaker Madigan inquired about a raise for an employee. It’s not inappropriate for an elected official to inquire about a wage increase for somebody. It’s not based on politics,” Gagliardo said.
Earlier this week, Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran said Clifford and his attorney had argued that if Clifford’s contract was not renewed, it would be in retaliation for Clifford reporting “alleged illegal conduct” to the Metra Board — supposedly political pressure involving hiring and contract awards. Before his exit, Clifford initially threatened a “whistleblower lawsuit” and was asking for more than the $718,000 package he got.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, Madigan said only that his office recommended Metra bosses give employee Patrick Ward a raise.
Madigan, who praised Ward’s academic and professional career in the statement, said he and Ward have worked together “on a variety of projects” over the past 15 years; his statement didn’t elaborate on those projects.
The discussion about the raise began with Ward contacting Madigan’s office in roughly March 2012, according to Madigan’s statement.
“Ward, a Metra labor relation specialist since 2008, notified Magidan’s office that “in spite of being asked to assume expanded tasks with additional responsibilities in his position, his $57,000 salary had not increased in more than three years,” Madigan’s statement said, adding:“Given the information presented to my office, we forwarded a recommendation to Metra senior staff that Mr. Ward be considered for a salary adjustment.”
But Clifford ultimately rejected the recommendation, Madigan said. The House Speaker said he then withdrew his recommendation for the raise.
Ward has since “voluntarily” left Metra’s employment,” according to Madigan’s statement.
#37 Jul 11, 2013
Mike has proven he has worked worked in the best interest of himself for numerous years. The voters who voted him and the other democrats in office are experiencing extreme hardship yet, Mike and his cronies press on. Sadly, The Democratic Party in Illinois has become an embarrassment!
#38 Jul 13, 2013
Ex-Metra CEO memo has explosive new revelations regarding Mike Madigan
BY ROSALIND ROSSI, ART GOLAB AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters July 12, 2013 4:18PM
Is this any way to run a railroad?
Governor Quinn exploring whether he can fire Metra board
Updated: July 13, 2013 2:08AM
House Speaker Michael Madigan not only lobbied Metra to give a pay hike to a Metra worker whose family had worked on Madigan’s political campaigns but also “reportedly” tried to get someone else hired at the suburban rail agency, a newly released memo from ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford indicates.
According, to the memo, Clifford said he was informed that he was being forced out of his job “for not complying with Speaker Madigan’s requests for politically motivated employment actions.”
Clifford informed the board in the memo that Metra board Chairman Brad O’Halloran and board member Larry Huggins were concerned that failure to comply with Madigan’s requests would “result in Metra losing future funding.”
The explosive memo goes far beyond a description of it provided by Metra board outside counsel Joe Gagliardo on Thursday to the House Mass Transit Committee, even though the Committee’s chair, state Rep. Deb Mell, asked Gagliardo at least twice if he had summarized all the contents of the memo.
State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) noted that witnesses before the House Mass Transit committee were not sworn in, so there is “no legal recourse” for their failure to disclose to the Committee all the allegations in the Clifford memo.
Only two of 11 Metra Board members showed up Thursday to explain why Metra Board members approved a 26-month, maximum $718,000 separation agreement with Clifford when he had eight months left on his contract. The lone Metra board dissenter, Jack Schaffer, Thursday told the House Committee the payout was largely “hush money.’’
Metra has said that before his exit, Clifford initially threatened a “whistleblower lawsuit” and was asking for more than the $718,000 he got.
Another new revelation in the memo is the accusation that O’Halloran wanted two Metra employees fired. Clifford wrote that the intervention was improper because hiring and firing was his responsibility.
O’Halloran and Huggins issued statements denying Clifford’s charges.
“As I testified yesterday, I deny Mr. Clifford’s allegations, but, out of an abundance of caution, immediately forwarded all of his claims to the [state] Inspector General,” O’Halloran said.“I have never intervened with Metra’s staff regarding any jobs or contracts. The Board attempted a fair and unbiased review process for Mr. Clifford that was upended by his threatened legal strategy, which resulted in the settlement.”
“I categorically deny Clifford’s allegations,” Huggins said.
In the memo, Clifford also wrote that when he spoke to O’Halloran about renewing his employment contract,“he told me that he needed to arrange a meeting with Speaker Madigan to assess ‘what damage I have done’ to Metra and its future funding by my refusal to accede to Speaker Madigan’s requests.”
Clifford also gave more details on those requests, writing that Madigan, through a Metra lobbyist and in a direct conversation with Huggins, asked for a raise for Metra employee Patrick Ward. When Clifford did not comply, it resulted in an argument with Huggins, Clifford wrote.
Clifford then asked Ward “why I was getting pressure from Speaker Madigan with regard to his salary.”
“Mr. Ward said his family had supported Mr. Madigan for many years and worked on his political campaigns,” Clifford wrote.“He said that he had discussed his Metra employment with Mr. Madigan at a Madigan political event, where he told Mr. Madigan that he felt underpaid.”
Clifford said Madigan also requested that Metra hire another individual, but he provided no more details on that revelation.
#39 Jul 13, 2013
Later, according to the memo, Clifford found out that O’Halloran and Huggins had decided to replace him when his contract expired with Alex Wiggins, Metra’s Deputy Executive Director. Clifford wrote that he had documents confirming this.
“Mr. O’Halloran and Mr. Huggins have also said that I must go for not complying with Speaker Madigan’s requests for politically motivated employment actions, which Mr. O’Halloran and Mr. Huggins may believe will result in Metra losing future funding,” Clifford said in the memo.
Asked about the new allegations, a Madigan aide stuck by a statement released by the speaker Thursday in which Madigan said he engaged in no wrongdoing while advocating a raise for Ward after a supervisor had deemed it warranted.
“I think the statement speaks for itself. It addresses the question of Ward,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Brown offered this response when asked to shed more light about the conversation Madigan had with Ward about his pay at Metra.
“I think [Ward] made the point he’d been there a number of years. He was doing increased responsibilities, and his salary wasn’t increased,” Brown said.
Pressed on why the powerful House speaker would go to bat for Ward, Brown answered,“Somebody asked for help. That’s what public officials do, day in and day out. People ask for help.”
Brown went on to deny Friday’s bombshell allegation by Clifford that his refusal to give Ward a raise or hire another job applicant being pushed by Madigan resulted in his dismissal from Metra.
“I have no idea what happened to Clifford. It sounded like he had a world of problems, including not knowing anything about railroads,” Brown said.
Brown denied that Madigan interceded on another Metra job applicant’s behalf, as Clifford alleged.
“There’s no record of any other request,” Brown said.
Brown said Madigan has not been interviewed or subpoenaed by Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza’s office in connection with Clifford’s allegations.
Madigan wasn’t the only legislator trying to influence personnel decisions, Clifford wrote.
During a meeting with the Latino caucus, Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) asked Clifford if he would hire someone recommended by the caucus for an open executive position. Huggins later weighed in, supporting Arroyo’s request, according to Clifford’s memo.
Clifford said he told Arroyo that Metra would follow its normal hiring procedures.
A lawyer representing Arroyo denied Clifford’s allegation that Arroyo tried to strong-arm Metra into hiring his candidate for a deputy directorship.
“Luis Arroyo categorically denies the allegation. Secondly, even if that particular part of it is true, which it’s not, there’s nothing improper about making a recommendation of someone who’s qualified if there’s a low amount, which there is, of Hispanic participation in contracting and jobs at Metra,” Arroyo attorney Frank Avila told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The disclosure alleging Arroyo tried to clout in his choice for a deputy director slot at Metra isn’t the first time the Northwest Side lawmaker has found himself tied to the transit agency’s inner workings.
In November 2010, the Chicago Sun-Times published a report by the Better Government Association outlining how Arroyo — then the vice chairman of the House Mass Transit Committee — pressed Metra to hire a more diversified workforce.
#40 Jul 13, 2013
After doing so, the legislator’s daughter, Denise Arroyo, landed a $66,000-a-year administrative job at Metra. Later, his son’s girlfriend, Liza Dominguez, got a $39,000-a-year receptionist job for the agency.
And last October, the Sun-Times and BGA reported on how the legislator made what one GOP critic described as a “threat” to cut funding for Metra if it didn’t go along with his plan to rename its Healy station at Fullerton and Pulaski for Roberto Clemente, the late Puerto Rican baseball star who died in a 1972 plane crash.
Another point of contention in Clifford’s memo was that Huggins was unhappy with Clifford’s handling of the “Englewood Flyover” bridge project, which Huggins believed did not direct enough money to African-American contractors.
Clifford claimed Huggins refused to put the contract on the board’s agenda for three months, during which Huggins sucessfully pressured the contractor to add a significant number of African-American subcontractors.
Huggins also arranged for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to find a contractor that Metra would pay $50,000 for oversight services related to the Flyover. The oversight contract was ultimately abandoned, Clifford wrote.
In his statement Friday addressing Clifford’s memo, Huggins said the Flyover “project is taking place in an African-American community, and important leaders like Congressman Bobby Rush and Danny Davis were justifiably upset over the lack of community representation in Clifford’s original construction plans. Everything I did to help resolve that controversy with members of Congress was done in concert with federal and state transportation officials and legal counsel.”
Lawmakers at the hearing Thursday were upset with Metra’s overall handling of the Clifford severance situation, but Metra officials questioned at the hearing said that only the board itself and the governor can dismiss board members.
However Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said he does not have authority to replace the Metra board without cause. He could only do so based on an Office of the Executive Inspector General report and after a public hearing, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said.
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