Illinois Republican lawmakers are angry about a recent court filing by the Pritzker Administration to vacate a set of court decrees that seek to prevent politically motivated hiring. The Shakman decrees consist of three federal court orders issued as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed by Michael Shakman against the Democratic Organization of Cook County. The decrees, issued in 1972, 1979 and 1983, prohibit politically motivated firings, demotions, transfers or other punishments of government employees. It is also unlawful to take any political factor into account when hiring public employees, except for positions such as policymaking. These decrees are binding on more than 40 offices statewide, including the Governor’s office.
Springfield State Representative Tim Butler along with Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst and Grant Werhli of Naperville said that now is not the time to ease the rulings restrictions in the state amid the ongoing ComEd federal deferred prosecution.
Butler said the Shakman decrees protects a-political state employees from being sucked into partisan politics: “To move forward at this time to turn over something that is so important to protect state employees – hard working state employees – who just want to do their job alot of times – is just wrong. They don’t want to get involved in politics. They don’t want to have to be someone’s political pet to try to get a job. People just want to have a job and work hard for the State of Illinois without having to have any kind of political repercussions.”
The Pritzker Administration’s filing in the case says: “The State has reformed its employment practices to unquestionably pass constitutional muster. The State has instituted a durable solution to prevent future patronage employment practices. It has a comprehensive “exempt list” – approved by the Plaintiffs, the Special Master, and the Court – which the Court identified as the central infirmity of the State’s prior employment practices when Plaintiffs sought supplemental relief in 2014 and 2016. In addition, the State, by statute, has instituted an independent oversight structure in the Office of Executive Inspector General, which has within it a dedicated Hiring and Employment Monitoring Division – comprised of ten professionals with expertise and experience in monitoring the State’s employment practices to prevent and uncover political and other forms of discrimination, misconduct, and inefficiency.” The filing also claims that the decrees have become “unmoored” from the Constitution in its ruling. They claim that the injunction filed by the opposition have found no single violation of hirings or “a single patronage violation during that timeframe – let alone the kind of widespread illegal policies or practices to justify continued systemic intervention.”
According to a press release by the Illinois GOP on Monday, the court-appointed monitor for the state’s hiring practices, Noelle Brennan, reported earlier this year that Pritzker’s administration still has not completed a comprehensive employment plan to address the issues protected by the decrees. In fact, she said the administration began restricting communication between her staff and state agencies. The three representatives said during a press conference today that the information from monitor today made it even more important for a special session to be called to address the state’s ongoing ethics problems.