Friday, January 10, 2014

Republicans call for state hiring restrictions

By Caitlin Rydinsky

Republicans in the Illinois House are proposing changes to state hiring practices after the revelation that a Department of Correction’s administrator had a criminal record and gang ties.

Xandrian McCraven, who was employed as the senior advisor to the IDOC chief of parole, was discovered by a Chicago Sun-Times investigation to have had more than 24 arrests and links to gangs. McCraven has held several state jobs since 2000, including a position at the Department of Child and Family Services. When the story broke, McCraven was on paid leave. He has since been fired by the IDOC.

Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a Republican Elmhurst, says he supports giving a convicts second chances, but there are positions within state government that they should not hold. Rep. Reboletti and Republican Rep. John Anthony of Plainfield proposed barring gang members from working at the IIDOC, the Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the DCFS. “What you have to understand is gangs are coming to the 21st century. They are using every tool they can possibly use. They are building up people to actually represent them in these locales. I know. I’ve lived it; I’ve seen it. I’ve watched it,” says Anthony of his experience as a police officer working with gangs.

For someone to be restricted from employment under the plan, he or she would have been convicted or have had evidence of membership to a gang or gang activity documented by a court.

Wheaton Republican Rep. Jeanne Ives’ proposal would go a step further by banning the state from hiring anyone convicted of two or more criminal offenses such as a felony, class A misdemeanor or DUI. “We got a lot of unemployment out there in Illinois, and if you can’t actually abide by the laws, why should the taxpayers be paying you?” asks Ives. “There are a lot of unanswered questions here about the hiring practices, and we do need to have a full investigation.”

Since the reports on McCraven’s past, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kirk Dillard has called on Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, to fire Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez. “We need a full-scale review of IDOC operations beginning with the removal of Director Godinez. The 10,000 hardworking, rank-and-file correctional employees deserve better than this.” Reboletti supports Dillard in the GOP primary, but says that it does not affect his proposal.

Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for Quinn, said in a written statement that the administration has zero tolerance for unethical behavior. Blanchette said McCraven was hired under former Gov. Rob Blagojevich and inherited by the Quinn administration. “After this individual’s background came to our attention, the governor directed the Department of Corrections to review the individual’s employment status, at which point discrepancies in his previous application were identified. He was immediately terminated from employment,” Blanchette said. Gov. Quinn is sticking by Director Godinez, who Blanchette says has “one of the toughest jobs in the country.”

Republicans say they want a hearing next week on this issue. Steve Brown, a spokesman for  Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, said that no hearings are planned at this point. He said that “first we would need a bill” before any hearing would be scheduled.

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