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Quinn's chief of staff resigns amid probe

In this March 17, 2009 file photo, Jerry Stermer, chief of staff to Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn, speaks to reporters on Quinn's state budget address in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

August 23, 2010 4:19:58 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn's chief of staff has resigned after questions were raised over whether he used his state e-mail account for political purposes. The resignation quickly became an issue in the race for governor.

Governor Quinn had no public appearances Monday, which for him is very unusual. It is the day after Quinn's chief of staff submitted his resignation, the latest in a series of setbacks for the governor's administration and his election campaign.

Jerry Stermer says he reported himself to the inspector general for the "inadvertent" use of his state e-mail account for messages having to do with Pat Quinn's election campaign. The governor received the IG's report on August 13. Nine days later he accepted, Sunday, Stermer's resignation.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan told reporters Monday morning she will review the incident as a matter of routine.

"We'll investigate, and if and when appropriate, we take matters in front of the Executive Ethics Commission," said Madigan.

The inspector general, James Wright, was appointed in 2005 by then-governor Rod Blagojevich. On August 15 of this year, two days after the Stermer report, he was fired by Governor Quinn and replaced.

The administration says the replacement process was under way before the Stermer incident and issued a statement Monday: "These events are in no way connected."

By telephone, the Illinois Republican chairman Pat Brady said he is not so sure about that.

"That's beyond coincidental. There needs to be an immediate explanation, because the perception looks terrible," said Brady.

The campaign for Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady called the report and Wright's dismissal "stunning" and "disturbing," alleging "Quinn put his political interests before citizens yet again and fired the inspector general himself."

The governor's office is now without a chief of staff or a press secretary.

"Pat has been running with a limp, and I think the other foot is gonna start limping unless he rehires some people really quick and learns to trust them and learns to take their advice," said Don Rose, political consultant.

Last week, the governor fired his longtime political consulting firm, AKPD Message and Media, who in a parting shot questioned Quinn's discipline and professionalism.

"He trusts himself more than he trusts the advisers," said Rose. "It'll get you so far. But, when you've got a job as big as governor, you've got to learn to take a broader range of advice."

The governor has already hired a new consulting firm to assist his campaign. His office says that Tuesday he will name a new chief of staff. There is no word on when he might appoint a permanent press secretary.

Governor Quinn has appointed a new executive branch inspector general. He is Ricardo Mezam, a former assistant U.S. attorney.


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