7-7-2011; Hey Fitz, Elvis is still in the building; can you get a clean slate for Illinois?

If you aren’t sure, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is the eminent Patrick Fitzgerald. Having already brought in the conviction of prior Governor George Ryan, Pat Fitzgerald was entrusted with the decision to bring a multi-count federal indictment against former Governor Rod Blagojevich and gets credit for bringing justice to our fair State in getting convictions on 17 federal counts along with a conviction on one count from the earlier trial. We are certain U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald is now in the “cat bird” seat in managing and dealing with the extraordinarily complex federal sentencing guidelines that may result in former Governor Blagojevich going to jail for the rest of his time on this planet or serving a shorter sentence that many veteran criminal observers state could be in the range of about ten years. Whatever he does, it is our strong hope Mr. Fitzgerald isn’t done with the man columnist John Kass at the Chicago Tribune called “Meathead.”

What is left to discuss with Rod Blagojevich? Well, if you aren’t sure, the main issues presented to not one but two jury panels were the shakedowns about Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-empty Senate seat and the unbelievable and shocking actions of Rod Blagojevich in relation to a children’s hospital, for gosh sakes. What was completely left out in the hearings was the clear fact numerous state jobs were openly for sale for the right amount of money during the Blagojevich administration.

The problem the U.S. Attorney had in trying to let folks know about how corrupt the Blagojevich administration was about doling out state jobs was convicted dealmaker Tony Rezko. Rezko's relationship with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his family were at the root of the federal corruption case which led to Rezko's conviction. There is no question Rezko donated $117,652 to Blagojevich's campaigns and was credited by the Prosecutors in his trial with having delivered bundled contributions totaling almost $1.44 million. Blagojevich's wife, Patty who does very little real estate work, made at least $38,000 acting as Rezko's real-estate agent on several of his company's property acquisitions. Rezko “recommended” many of his business associates and their relatives for positions within state government, three of whom were appointed to the state board that oversees hospital projects.

We were advised Rezko wasn’t called to testify because he sort of went goofy after being convicted. He wrote a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Zagel about what he claimed were efforts by the U.S. Attorney to force him to lie. That letter and Mr. Rezko’s unpredictability as a prosecution witness caused the job-selling to be left out of the list of federal indictments. If you aren’t sure, evidence during Rezko’s trial demonstrated there was at least one state job which was sold for $50,000 in cash. Well, now that Blago is convicted, we aren’t so much concerned about Rezko, U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald can go right to the source who had the jobs to give to Rezko—Rod Blagojevich. The “clout list” on jobs that might have been doled out by Blago for cash or favors remains on the web at: http://media1.suntimes.com/multimedia/show_case_doc.pdf_20080221_10_50_44_45.imageContent

Workers’ compensation observers may note there are not one but two WC candidates listed along with their political patrons. As our readers are keenly aware, numerous other jobs at what is now called the Workers’ Compensation Commission were filled during the Blagojevich administration. We have been advised by numerous sources “control” of the IWCC was given to members of the Madison County bar in exchange for their support of Blagojevich. John Q. Public doesn’t know if anyone paid to get the jobs or control of the Commission. It is our view the public has a right to know and the person who can tell us now has an enormous reason to come completely clean—Rod Blagojevich is facing 300 years in federal prison and we assume he may be ready to sing loud and clear on what he did.

Are Random and Inexperienced Job Candidates from the Governor’s Posse Actually Any Better than Pay-to-Play?

It is our further hope the current powers-that-be start to see what the heck is wrong with Illinois State government. Current Governor Patrick “Tea-bag” Quinn started his career as a purported reformer with the self-styled “Coalition for Political Honesty” and appears to have slipped into the malaise of Illinois politics. His first three choices for the Workers’ Compensation Commission include the current Chairman Mitch Weisz who is a veteran and reasonable administrator. The other two choices for Commission posts include two men whose first days as Commissioners brought them their initial taste of complex workers’ compensation claims—to our knowledge neither had ever tried or appealed a workers’ compensation claim in their lives prior to being appointed by our Governor. One of them didn’t even go to law school in this state.

We know who the political backers for the two most-recent Commissioners are—we assure our readers pay-to-play had nothing to do with their selection. However, we also find it strikingly distasteful to tell our readers the powers-that-be are still running state government where you have to be “sponsored” to get an important and well-paid position. We don’t think that bodes well for the 30-plus Arbitrator positions now being considered by the Governor. While we are confident Pat Quinn has not and will not “sell” them to the highest bidder, we hope he doesn’t give them out to friends or friends of friends who have no WC background or training. He would be much better off to simply keep the existing, honest and veteran Arbitrators who already know, for example, what temporary partial disability is and how it just changed.

In our view, the rights and interests of Illinois business and its injured workers is not a joke or something to be taken lightly. The Workers’ Compensation in this state doles out about $2.5 billion in benefits each year. While we are certain Governor Quinn isn’t randomly raffling off jobs in the fashion of the last two, it isn’t much of an improvement for the current Governor to be doling out important jobs as workers’ compensation hearing officers to his “posse” regardless of their background, knowledge and training in this system. Last week, Arbitrators were supposed to be civil servants with needed protection when they handled difficult claims. Due primarily to the Menard C.C. “scandal,” the arbitrator jobs are now basically political plums to be provided to neophytes in exchange for quiet fealty to the party in power. To us, that isn’t much of an improvement over the tainted personnel methods employed by George Ryan or Rod Blagojevich.

In our view, some day, somehow this State is going to start to select candidates for important jobs after doing an open and honest national or statewide search. We can imagine a state where the best candidates are always selected regardless of their politics and loyalties. Someday, the goals of Michael Shakman in getting partisan politics out of middle and lower level state jobs is going to take hold. Until then, we are going to keep writing about all of it. In summary, it is our strongest hope U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald holds Rod Blagojevich’s feet to the fire and finds out what happened about buying and selling state jobs and more important, lets the public, the members of the state bar and the media know what truly happened. If Mr. Fitzgerald goes the extra mile on this, it may demonstrate to future Governors-to-be what they have to do to actually fulfill their jobs and then “retire” in a setting where there are no prison bars anywhere in sight.