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Quinn names new chief of staff

August 25, 2010 4:47:13 AM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn has picked his Department of Human Services head to be his new chief of staff.

Jerry Stermer resigned from the job over the weekend after questions were raised about his use of a state e-mail account. The resignation quickly became an issue in the race for governor.

It's all a coincidence, according to Pat Quinn, that the governor fired his administration's inspector general on the same day he was told the IG had issued a report critical of his top aide. The governor explained the curious timing Tuesday as he named Michelle Saddle, former secretary of human services, as his new chief of staff.

"He called me and asked if I would accept this challenge, and I said yes," said Saddler.

Saddler has known and worked for Pat Quinn since the early 1990s and throughout his career in state government.

"I've kept in touch with Michelle since the time I was state treasurer. She's worked on a variety of other jobs," Quinn said.

Saddler says she will give Quinn plenty of gentle pushback, and do it firmly, when necessary.

"I'm not serving my boss well if I don't truly speak up as assertively as possible when I think perhaps something could be going a different way," said Saddler.

Saddler replaces Jerry Stermer, who quit over the weekend. The executive branch inspector general reported on August 13 that Stermer used his state government e-mail account to send three politically oriented messages.

"He decided, in the best interest of the people of Illinois, not to be a distraction, that he would prefer to resign," said Quinn.

Inspector General James Wright, who wrote the Stermer report, was fired by Quinn on the same day -- August 13 -- that the governor was briefed on the Stermer report.

Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady says, to him, it appears that Wright's firing was retaliatory.

"My concern is that this just seems to be the same old policies of putting politics in front of what we need to focus on, and that's jobs," said Brady.

But the governor says he made the decision to fire Blagojevich appointee Wright hours before he received the inspector general's report on Stermer. And, he says, the firing had been in the works for months.

"We had much earlier on made a decision to replace Mr. Wright. And, I don't think he labored under any assumption that I was going to reappoint him," Quinn said.

The governor also noted that Wright's term expired over a year ago and that his replacement was named only hours after Wright's firing was announced.

The new IG, Ricardo Meza, begins work on September 7.


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