SPRINGFIELD -- On his first full day as Illinois’ new chief executive, Governor Rod Blagojevich took his initial steps toward fulfilling his goal of bringing about fundamental reform to state government.
Through a series of executive orders and additional directives, Blagojevich on Tuesday took action aimed at restoring people’s faith in their leaders and imposing greater discipline on state spending.
“Today, I am beginning—and it is only the beginning—my fight to stop waste and inefficiency in state government,” the Governor said Tuesday afternoon.
Foremost among the actions Blagojevich carried out was the immediate notification of termination of employment to individuals holding more than 30 positions that were filled in the closing weeks of the previous administration.
Blagojevich has been advised that the term appointments—which were made by former Governor Ryan after October 15— can be terminated on the grounds that the rules under which they were hired were changed invalidly are therefore null and void. Specifically, the new rules bypassed appropriate appointment procedures.
“I will not allow the status quo to stand here in Springfield,” Blagojevich said.
“Our state is facing an unprecedented budget crisis. We cannot afford to waste a single dollar. The days of taking care of insiders first and taxpayers last are over,” he added.
In addition, Blagojevich directed Central Management Services (CMS) to clarify that the rule change, which had been pushed forward by the previous administration, had been carried out improperly and should therefore be set aside. By promoting the rules change during the summer of 2002, Governor George Ryan’s administration had attempted to lock political appointees into long-range positions.
The former administration’s measure had also weakened assurances that appointees were well qualified for their positions.
The new governor also appointed Mary Lee Leahy, an attorney who is renowned for her work specializing in ethics and personnel issues, to serve as a Special investigator for Employment and Personnel to revise state hiring rules and to find unnecessary and unqualified personnel.
Blagojevich also placed a hold on the heads of departments and agencies from hiring new personnel. He also targeted for reform a perk long-favored by state employees: the free-wheeling use of state-owned cars.
“I have voiced my pledge to bringing about change to state government. These are the first steps.”
Blagojevich made his comments Tuesday after entering his office in the state capitol for the first time since taking the oath of office as governor where he signed the executive orders that embodied his call for “an end to business as usual in Springfield” and representing that a new era in state government was now underway.
His actions were as follows:
* ELIMINATION OF LATE-TERM APPOINMENTS. Blagojevich took steps leading to the removal of a number of term appointments made by his predecessor in the last weeks of the previous administration. These term appointments included many personal allies of the previous governor and other politically-connected individuals.
Among the positions eliminated by Blagojevich were: the director of the Illinois Building Commission, who had a salary of $99,000, manager of county fairs and horse racing at a salary of $80,000; and manager of consumer education and information for the Department of Insurance at a salary of $101,000.
“I want to be clear -- without exception --- every individual we find who is unqualified for his or her job, every one of these individuals who is not essential to the function of state government, every one of these individuals who does not share my commitment to changing business as usual in state government will be terminated,” Blagojevich said.
The governor’s special investigator for employment and personnel will also be assigned to determine whether the positions to which late term appointees were assigned are indeed valid positions, whether they existed prior to the appointments and—if not—whether they were vacant for an extensive period of time, which would call into question their need.
Employees and appointees who were removed through the actions taken today will have the opportunity to apply for reinstatement to their positions. Their qualifications will be judged on a competitive basis against other candidates.
* DECLARATION THAT RYAN ADMINISTRATION RULE CHANGES ARE INVALID. Underscoring his commitment to reform and fairness, Blagojevich took steps to prohibit his administration from taking advantage of the same latitude enjoyed by the previous administration when it moved to lock its allies into long-term positions.
Blagojevich directed CMS to set aside the steps taken over the summer by the Ryan administration that made it easier to lock appointees into long-term positions. The governor did so on the grounds that the rules under which they were hired were invalidly carried out, and are therefore null and void.
Blagojevich’s declaration would restore the probationary period for such appointments back to its original duration of six months, rather than the 30 days to which it had been reduced.
In addition, such appointees would have to again be chosen from an eligibility list to ensure that they were well-qualified for their positions. The Ryan administration’s rule change-- which had been sent to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR)-- had weakened that standard.
The return to higher eligibility standards would have an immediate impact on the personnel appointed by the governor.
“I intend to use every power I have at my discretion as governor to eliminate unqualified, unnecessary and overpaid individuals wherever I find them in state government,” he said.
“The taxpayers of Illinois deserve only the best and the brightest working for them and I intend to find them.”
* ENSURING NEED FOR STATE VEHICLES. The new governor also took aim at what is likely a waste of taxpayer dollars—and, perhaps, an often abused perk among state government appointees: the use and abuse of state-owned vehicles. He issued an executive order calling on all agencies to conduct a thorough review of the cars used by their employees, and issued an immediate freeze on the purchase of new vehicles.
Effective immediately, each agency will be blocked from ordering, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring any new vehicles, other than those needed for public safety, road clearing, emergency services or other urgent needs.
The governor cited figures showing that the state owned more than 13,000 vehicles as of Nov. 1, 2002.
Among the agencies in possession of state vehicles were the Historic Preservation office, which has 55 cars; the Student Assistance Commission, which has 24 cars; and the Gaming Board which has 26 cars.
In at least three instances, individuals had been assigned two state vehicles each.
* PLACING LIMITS ON NEW STATE HIRING. Given the state’s severe fiscal crisis, the governor imposed a hiring freeze to block agency directors from hiring new state personnel. The limitation would apply evenly to department and agency directors appointed by the Blagojevich administration as well as those appointed by the previous administration. To guarantee that all new hiring takes into account all new staffing decisions would require the approval of the governor and his office.
“State government under my leadership will do more with less. That effort begins today,” the governor said.
(View the Archived Governor's News Conference)
Executive Order Number 1
Executive Order Number 2