IDOC hired ex-gang member despite review that found him “not eligible”
BY FRANK MAIN AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters January 23, 2014 9:31PM
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- WATCHDOGS FOLLOW-UP: Lawmakers want former gang members banned from prison jobs
Updated: February 25, 2014 6:12AM
The Illinois prison director’s chief of staff approved the hiring of a former gang member to a six-figure corrections job last year — one day after the agency’s own background screening determined he was ineligible.
Newly obtained documents show Bryan Gleckler, chief of staff for Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez, signed off on Xadrian McCraven’s hiring on June 28, 2013. The previous day, IDOC Chief of Operations Joseph Yurkovich checked a box on a review form deeming McCraven “not eligible” for the job.
McCraven, 44, was fired earlier this month from the $111,432-a-year post after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed his rocky employment history and lengthy criminal past.
The issue has mushroomed beyond McCraven, with several Republican lawmakers pushing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to explain whether politics influenced decisions regarding McCraven’s employment. Quinn aides have denied ever showing McCraven any favoritism, saying they moved swiftly to fire him in the wake of the Sun-Times reports.
McCraven, who declined to comment, has made $1,700 in campaign contributions to elected officials including former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other Democratic lawmakers. In 2003, he was among thousands of politically connected people listed in a then-secret database of candidates for jobs, transfers or promotions in Blagojevich’s administration.
Yurkovich, the IDOC operations chief, said McCraven was ineligible to work for corrections because McCraven’s nephew was on parole for aggravated battery at the time McCraven was being vetted. McCraven ended up being hired as senior adviser to the chief of parole.
“That in and of itself seems like a total conflict,” said Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), who is drafting legislation to prevent former gang members from working for corrections and a handful of other state agencies.
Despite McCraven’s job title, IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer said McCraven “did not have access to sensitive, confidential, classified or anti-gang enforcement information. He also had no interaction with parolees. . . .”
The state prison system reviewed other issues about McCraven, including:
◆ McCraven’s admitted affiliation with a gang, the Young Latino Organization Disciples, in the late 1980s.
◆ His criminal history and orders of protection against him.
◆ His previous applications — and rejections — for jobs with the prison system in 2007 and 2011.
Shaer said Gleckler didn’t consider McCraven’s arrest history because “that history could not be legally considered in determining his eligibility for employment.” The review form on which Gleckler checked “eligible” noted McCraven had had criminal records expunged.
McCraven was arrested “at least” 24 times and convicted of misdemeanors three times as a young man, according to federal court records.
McCraven previously worked for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services but was fired by the agency in 2012 for allegedly “writing and responding to hundreds of lewd and inappropriate emails” while at work. He also allegedly falsified a DCFS application.
McCraven filed a union grievance to get his job back. Quinn’s administration — citing the high cost to taxpayers in job disputes — agreed to give him a 10-day suspension, six months’ back pay and a transfer to corrections in exchange for him dropping the grievance.
The deal was “contingent upon the grievant being deemed qualified and eligible” for the corrections position, including “the successful completion of a background check,” records show.
In approving the hire, Gleckler weighed the “state’s legal obligation to find McCraven continued employment and the availability of a non-sensitive job within IDOC,” Shaer said.