Gov's ex-counsel takes stand in Rezko trial

March 10, 2008 4:45:02 PM PDT
From 2003 until 2006, Jill Hayden was the director of Illinois Boards and Commissions. She testified that she supervised hundreds of background checks on candidates for those boards and commissions who were recommended to newly-elected governor Rod Blagojevich.Hayden, who worked for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan before the governor, recalled five or six conversations with fundraiser Tony Rezko.

"He would recommend a candidate and ask that they be appointed." and "generally, they were approved," she said.

And Hayden testified that during one of the calls, Rezko urged her to speed up the process for Stewart Levine, the Republican fundraiser who wanted re-appointment to the teachers retirement system board. She said she told Rezko she'd have to check with the governor's chief of staff, Lon Monk. Rezko, she said, laughed and told her he'd already checked with Monk and it was fine.

Levine, who was re-appointed, has pleaded guilty to scheming with Rezko to shake down companies who wanted to invest teachers pension funds. Levine is scheduled to be the government's most important prosecution witness.

Earlier Monday, former Blagojevich chief counsel Susan Lichtenstein finished her testimony. She said that Rezko was one of many people, mostly elected officials, who were scrambling to get Democrats appointed to hundreds of Illinois boards and commissions that had been controlled for nearly 25 years by Republicans.