Ill. Senate, Quinn spar over nominees

February 10, 2011 5:23:20 PM PST
The Illinois Senate all but won a feud with Gov. Pat Quinn concerning the governor's nominees to high-ranking government positions.

In Thursday's Intelligence Report: why the governor will have to move quickly if he wants to lock in his top appointees.

The spat started two weeks ago when Senate President John Cullerton challenged the validity of dozens of appointees from Quinn's first term appointees who were never confirmed by the state Senate as required. The dispute threatened to dislodge 36 top state officials because their nominations had expired.

The Senate has voted unanimously to retake control of appointments by eliminating acting officials whose tenure could drag on forever.

When General Assembly wrapped up its term last month, the Senate adjourned without acting on 36 of Quinn's appointees, including top appointments at the commerce commission, human services, corrections and the state police.

Cullerton notified state lawyers and payroll officials that because those appointments expired without confirmation, the nominees were no longer entitled to act or receive salaries.

Senate Bill 1 passed unanimously and would end the use of acting appointees for unlimited periods of time without confirmation.

Right now there are more than 500 appointees serving in expired terms. If they are not re-nominated, under the new law they would be removed from their positions.

Among them is state police director Jonathon Monken, appointed in March of 2009 but never OK'd by the Senate amidst concerns about lack of law enforcement experience.

Under a confusing chronology, the Senate has until next Wednesday to act on Monken's two-year old nomination as state police director. They could vote down Monken or any of the other names in front of them.

Senate officials say that so far Quinn hasn't re-nominated Monken to run the state police.

Statement from John Patterson, spokesman for Illinois Senate Democrats:

On Thursday, the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure to strengthen the legislature's advice and consent role for reviewing government appointees. The legislation, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, ends the practice of allowing "acting appointees" for unlimited periods of time without confirmation of the Senate.

"It's meant to correct what we see as a loophole in the law," said Cullerton.

Currently, more than 500 appointees continue to serve in their posts even though their appointed terms have expired. Under the law, appointees must be reviewed and approved by the Illinois Senate. However, it is not uncommon for high-level administrators to continue to serve without re-appointment or review. Senate Bill 1 clarifies that this practice in no longer acceptable.

The law will require the Governor to submit new nominations for all existing salaried appointees who are currently working for the state even though their previous term has expired. If they are not re-nominated, they are immediately removed from their position. Unpaid appointees serving beyond their terms are granted a 30-day window to have their nominations submitted to the Senate.

"We think this benefits the system. We expect it to pass the House and hope that the governor signs it," Cullerton said.

In addition, the Senate changed its operating rules this week requiring that all Executive appointments must be submitted in writing, numbered and also posted on the General Assembly's website for easy public access and review.