SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has asked a federal court to reject Michael Shakman's challenge to state hiring, saying the Chicago anti-patronage attorney has no authority to raise questions and seeks resolution that would unnecessarily disrupt government and undermine gubernatorial authority.
The Democratic governor's request, which blames the now-imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich for any misconduct in hiring, was filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Shakman, author of a landmark 1972 court decree prohibiting political hiring in Cook County government, renewed his suit against Quinn in April. It claims the administration violated the Shakman decree and another that regulates state hiring by improperly considering politics in employment and promotion at the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Shakman wants an investigation completed and a "special master" appointed to monitor and ensure proper hiring at all agencies under the governor's control, a move Quinn's lawyers reject as superfluous and threatening to duties — in this case, hiring — entrusted to government officials.
"Gov. Quinn has already taken concrete and meaningful steps to abolish any prohibited use of political considerations in state employment — and he did so before plaintiffs filed their motion," the document reads.
Shakman told The Associated Press on Saturday night that the federal court determined nearly four decades ago that the Shakman Decree applies to governors. He said the response has other shortcomings and noted there is no mention in the document of the Transportation Department's own admission that it had hired people and transferred them without properly offering jobs to the public.
"What's striking about the brief is what's not in it," Shakman said. "... It's a disappointing response from a 'reform' governor."
Quinn, represented by Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, says in his motion that governors aren't bound by the Shakman decree because Shakman never sued the state. He says Shakman instead wants to "bootstrap" his claims through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as Rutan, which oversees state hiring.
Shakman's lawsuit followed an August 2013 report by the Better Government Association that state transportation officials had violated the Rutan ruling in filling posts that were supposed to be free of politics. The report said the practice began more than 10 years ago under Quinn predecessor Blagojevich, now serving a federal prison term for political corruption.
Quinn's motion says Shakman missed deadlines for taking action against hiring under Blagojevich or procedures Shakman claims continued under Quinn. The motion also says Shakman "abandoned" some of the arguments by not following through when they were raised in earlier court proceedings, that he cannot show "harm" as prescribed by federal law, and that he seeks to impugn future governors' authority "on the alleged misconduct of one former governor."
The filing also asks the court to rule on Quinn's entreaty before considering whether Shakman is entitled to thousands of pages of government documents related to hiring. The governor says producing the documents would be "intrusive, burdensome, and beyond the scope of the already speculative allegations."
Contact John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .