Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The ghosts of Rod Blagojevich

They say that an organization reflects its leader. It's doubly true in Illinois.

Buried in another batch of corruption-unveiling audits by Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland yesterday was a ghost of Rod Blagojevich's past.

Back in 1996, Chicago Tribune reporters Laurie Cohen and Mitchell Locin all but proved that Rod Blagojevich was a ghost payroller on the city of Chicago payroll.

“The specifics of what Blagojevich did for that money are elusive, and public records provided little clarification," the Tribune said.

Jim Ryan ran a TV commercial in 2002 based on the Trib article but Rod used his huge spending advantage and the George Ryan scandal to bury any doubts about his ethics.

Fast forward to this week. Holland released audits for various agencies under the Governor's control and in nearly every one of them he found that employees were not filling out time sheets as required by state law. No ghost payrolling was alleged, but when employees don't tell anyone when they are working, who knows? Did Rod teach them that trick?

Here are the agencies where employees couldn't be bothered to tell the public when they were working and when they were not:

  • Central Management Services

  • Department of Public Health

  • Department of Revenue

  • Housing Development Authority

  • Office of the Executive Inspector General

Yes, Office of the Executive Inspector General.

Sadly, the irony train is not yet at the station.

The state law that requires employees to fill out time sheets is the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Here is what James Wright, Blagojevich's Executive Inspector General, says about the act on the governor's website:

Welcome to the Ethics Training and Compliance Center. The interactive program that you are about to begin, will allow you to meet your annual ethics training obligation, which is a requirement of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. This program is intended to familiarize you with some of the laws, rules and policies that govern your conduct as a state employee.

Although most of you are already familiar with many of the standards of conduct that are reflected in these laws and rules, this year's ethics training program will serve as a reminder of your responsibility to always conduct state activities with honesty, integrity and fairness.

As an important element of your commitment to acting ethically, please take the time to carefully read and review all of the subject matter contained in this course. Remember, we must all work together and perform our responsibilities in accordance with the standards set forth in the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, and other laws, rules and state policies, in order to ensure the public's trust in the operation of our state government.

James A. Wright
Executive Inspector General

Here is what Holland said about Wright's office:

The Office did not comply with the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (5 ILCS 430/5-5) regarding employee timekeeping requirements.

This is the same state law that Pat Quinn was bragging about last week on Chicago Tonight to suggest that Rod Blagojevich has cleaned up state government. We know that Rod doesn't show up for work. Now we can't be sure about quite a few of his employees.

Paging Lisa Madigan.

More about the CMS audit coming up.

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