The scathing audit of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services that made such big headlines last week could be just the tip of the iceberg. The audit uncovered numerous problems at the agency, including some possible criminal activity, but inside sources say that there is much more to come.
For instance, back on March 29th the Illinois Secretary of State's office received a routine request from the Blagojevich administration.
An employee at the Department of Central Management Services had been placed on administrative leave, the SoS was told. The Secretary of State's office, which handles security at the Capitol Complex, was asked to bar the woman from entering the Stratton Building until further notice.
Just to make sure that there were no mistakes, photos of the employee were supplied to the SoS and were placed at both guarded entrances to the building.
The employee in question could not be reached for comment and a spokesperson for CMS referred all inquiries to the Inspector General's office, which refused comment.
At the time she was placed on leave, the employee was working in the job-testing division of CMS's personnel office. Not long after she was temporarily moved out, another high-level personnel office employee was reassigned to a different job at another state agency. The move was reportedly in the works for several weeks, if not longer, however. That person did not respond to requests for comment. Two other people in the personnel office were also reportedly reassigned during the same period.
Is there something else going on at CMS besides the administrative problems uncovered by the Illinois Auditor General's report?
According to several sources, CMS personnel office files were searched by the Office of the Executive Inspector General and at least one computer was seized in late March. Rumors are rampant within CMS that the IG's investigation has something to do with alleged circumvention of the state's veterans preference rules. Veterans automatically receive extra points on state tests, and some critics (including former Governor George Ryan) have claimed that it is all but impossible to hire anyone but military veterans.
It should be stressed here that neither the woman on administrative leave nor anyone else at CMS have been publicly accused of doing anything wrong. And some at CMS say that any alleged orders to get around the veterans preferences by possibly upcoding political hires came from high up the governmental food chain and that lower level people are being unfairly blamed.
So far, the Inspector General has made no criminal referrals to the attorney general. And, as the State Journal-Register's Bernie Schoenburg pointed out in a recent column:
"...when the inspector general's office finds that a complaint has merit, that is reported to the employees' bosses, such as the governor and an agency director. If the recommended action is taken, nothing ever becomes public. If the action is not agreed to, the inspector general can take the case to the Executive Ethics Commission. Hearings there also are confidential."
In other words, we may never know what really happened at CMS unless the attorney general or the US Attorney's office intervenes. A cynic might say that the IG's office is essentially set up to protect the incumbent administration from embarrassing revelations by handling potential problems in total secrecy.
The obvious potential for problems created by the mandated secrecy at the Inspector General's office is compounded by this very disturbing little paragraph in the state statute book:
"(5 ILCS 430/20-80) ...If an Executive Inspector General determines that any alleged misconduct may give rise to criminal penalties, the Executive Inspector General may refer the allegations regarding that misconduct to the appropriate law enforcement authority."
This means the IG is not required by law to report suspected illegal activities to the attorney general, the FBI or the local state's attorney. And since an inspector general's office can keep its entire investigation secret, it can legitimately cover up any lawbreaking.
And even if the IG's office is on the up and up (which is probable, but we have no way of knowing for sure one way or another because of its mandated ultra-secrecy), the office may never get to the bottom of this particular mystery.
According to a couple of sources, CMS was tipped that the IG was planning a raid and files were reportedly moved before investigators arrived.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at www.capitolfax.com.