CHICAGO -- Continuing an effort he initiated on his first full day in office to change business as usual in state government, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced that he will remove more than two dozen people from appointments made in an invalid manner by the previous administration in its final days in office.
In addition, Blagojevich announced that he will not fill the position of “Small Business Utility Advocate,” a high-paying position which he said is of questionable use. Filling the position would have cost the taxpayers nearly one hundred thousand dollars per year.
The 28 employees were appointed to their positions in the same manner as 35 individuals terminated by Blagojevich on his first full day in office nearly two weeks ago. In each case, the term employees were thought to have benefited from a rule change made by the Ryan administration that would have locked the employees into four-year jobs from which they could not be removed.
The Blagojevich administration has found that the rule was changed in an invalid manner, circumvented civil service requirements and bypassed eligibility lists. The appointments are therefore null and void.
“Today, I am continuing my effort to trim every wasteful dollar from state spending to eliminate every last-minute, insider appointment made in the waning days and hours of George Ryan’s administration,” Blagojevich said.
“It is part of an ongoing effort to bring real change to our government and to restore the faith and confidence of the people of Illinois in the leaders of this state,” he said.
All of the appointments were made since October 15, after the Ryan administration’s rule change—which has now been found to have been done improperly— went into effect.
Given the state’s massive deficit, Blagojevich stressed that fiscal issues represent a key factor in the decision. The combined savings of these terminations could be more than five million dollars.
Blagojevich added that the people removed from their positions today are welcome to resubmit applications for employment. If they choose to do so, their applications will be judged on a competitive basis against other candidates.
“Should any of these positions prove to be essential, should any of the employees prove to be needed and capable, I encourage them to reapply for their positions through traditional channels,” he said.
One position which the governor has determined is not essential is that of “Small Business Utility Advocate.” The position—which would have paid $99,414 per year-- will therefore remain unfilled.
“At a time of an unprecedented deficit, we simply cannot fill every position in state government that some would like to fill,” he said.
Blagojevich pointed out that the position has only existed for a short period of time.
“For all but about two years of the state’s entire history, Illinois has survived – in fact, thrived – without a Small Business Utility Advocate. I’m sure we will continue to do quite well in the future,” he said.
The position had been scheduled to be filled beginning in March by Mayor William Shaw of Dolton.
“I am not targeting an individual in this cut,” Blagojevich emphasized. “I’m targeting a system that has served itself for too long.”
In the weeks ahead, a member of Blagojevich’s staff will continue to examine the list of Ryan administration appointees and the state’s overall payroll to look for positions that are not essential to the taxpayers as well as instances where an unqualified person is holding a position.
The task is being carried out by the governor’s Special Investigator for Employment and Personnel, noted attorney Mary Lee Leahy. She will continue to advise the governor on which positions can be eliminated and appointees removed.
“I want to be clear again-- today is only a start,” he said.
“As governor, I want to send a message that our state’s revenue is not my money, it’s not the insiders’ money – it’s the people’s money.”
(View the Archived Governor's News Conference - Video)