Political spat nearly halts Illinois bureaucracy

January 26, 2011 4:28:26 PM PST
A feud between Gov. Pat Quinn and the president of the Ill. Senate nearly led to a meltdown of state bureaucracy.

Illinois government has been on a collision course the past week with Quinn and John Cullerton headed straight at each other.

Cullerton tried to derail dozens of Quinn appointments from the governor's first term, appointees who were never confirmed by the Senate and no longer have jobs, Cullerton says.

When the 96th Illinois General Assembly closed its books this month, the Senate adjourned without confirming 36 of Gov. Quinn's appointees. Some nominations went back almost two years. They range from top appointments at the commerce commission and human services to the workers comp board, corrections and the state police.

Then, just a few days after Quinn was sworn in, Cullerton notified the state comptroller that Quinn's unconfirmed appointees no longer had jobs and were not entitled to paychecks because their nominations expired when the General Assembly adjourned, he said.

Among those unconfirmed nominees is embattled acting state police director Jonathon Monken. Gov. Quinn appointed Monken in March of 2009. But he was never confirmed by the Senate, amidst concerns about youthfulness and lack of law enforcement experience.

"My philosophy is leadership by example," said Monken.

Monken and the other unconfirmed appointees remained on the job the past week, with Gov. Quinn saying their appointments carried over to his next term.

But with the Senate president threatening to have all of them removed, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan weighed in Wednesday. Her 14-page opinion concluded that a person's "nomination does not expire with the adjournment of the legislature" and that "the nomination carries over into the new...session."

So, the immediate crisis has been averted. The state agency leaders will remain on the job and the Senate has already scheduled appointment hearings when the 97th General Assembly convenes for the first time next week.

A spokesman for Cullerton said they will comply with the Attorney General's order, but they still believe that Monken and other top state officials are making decisions and being paid when they shouldn't be because they haven't been confirmed as the law requires.

That larger issue will be the backdrop for the confirmation hearings, and it could be a rocky road for Monken and the others.