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Report: Ill. prison hire had clout, not experience

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 3:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 3:30 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Corrections filled a high-ranking prison administrator's position with a man who had political clout but whose qualifications fell far short of the agency's own job-description requirements, a state investigation has found.

The Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, in a report released Wednesday, did not name the administrator or the prison where he works. But it indicated he had prior experience only in teaching theater, as an assistant manager at a "movie store," and managing an office for his father's political campaign. The report did not name the father.

The agency's description for the job cited the need for extensive educational and practical experience in criminology, penal administration and prison supervision. Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez, who is named in the report, acknowledged that the job required the ability to run the entire prison in an emergency.

The commission recommended that Gov. Pat Quinn's office "take appropriate action" in the case of the employee because he wasn't qualified. But one of Quinn's lawyers responded that a review of the employee's status showed that he "has achieved the requisite education and employment experience" for the job.

It's the second time in less than three months that Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza has found hiring violations in in the Quinn administration. Meza reported in November that he found 10 violations of hiring law at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Those jobs were subject to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits hiring based on political considerations, based on an Illinois case known as "Rutan." Alleged Rutan violations by the administration of Quinn's predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, drew the interest of federal prosecutors and eventually led to the Democrat's conviction for political corruption and a 14-year prison sentence.

The Corrections position discussed in the report is one that is exempt from Rutan rules, meaning the governor's administration may hire someone who has political connections.

But the commission noted that Corrections listed six detailed qualifications for the post, and that state policy requires an agency to ensure a hiring candidate "meets the minimum training and experience qualifications for the position."

The report named Godinez and executive assistant Jerry Buscher as being responsible for the hire. Godinez told investigators he was aware of written requirements for the job but had not looked at them. He said education is important but he "looks primarily to intangibles like energy and thought process" when hiring for such a post.

The commission also recommended an assessment of hiring practices. The Corrections Department issued a statement Wednesday that it will conduct a "comprehensive review," make sure its senior staff members are familiar with hiring procedures and "take additional steps to verify" that all applicants meet job requirements.

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Online: http://tinyurl.com/ayhfmtd

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Contact John O'Connor at https://www.twitter.com/apoconnor

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