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Found unfit to work twice, ex-gang member got six-figure state job anyway

Xadrian McCraven

Xadrian McCraven

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Updated: February 7, 2014 6:23AM

A former Chicago gang member with political ties was found unfit to work for the Illinois Department of Corrections two separate times before he managed to land a six-figure job with the agency last year, newly obtained records show.

Xadrian R. McCraven sought a job with IDOC in 2007, but prison officials rejected his application because of a problem found during a background check, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Then in 2011, IDOC Director Salvador Godinez’s office signed off on McCraven being “detailed” from his job as shelter-care coordinator for the state Department of Children and Family Services to an investigator in the prison system’s intelligence unit.

Only two months into his assignment, though, McCraven was stripped of his badge and gun and ordered back to his DCFS job.

The newly obtained documents don’t make clear exactly why McCraven was returned to DCFS. Federal court records show he had been arrested “at least” 24 times in his youth on charges ranging from arson to assault.

“I have just now advised Xadrian . . . that he will be returning to DCFS starting Monday 10/17/11 on the basis of suitability issues discovered in the recent background investigation,” then-IDOC Chief of Staff Luke P. Hartigan wrote to Godinez and other IDOC officials. “The suitability issues include a denial of employment after administrative review in 2007 when he applied for the position of [IDOC] Affirmative Action Officer.”

DCFS fired McCraven in 2012 because the agency’s inspector general found he was “writing and responding to hundreds of lewd and inappropriate emails” while at work. He also allegedly falsified a DCFS job application.

McCraven, 44, sued to get his DCFS job back last year, but a federal judge rejected his claims in March.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration — citing the high cost to taxpayers of legal battles over employment disputes — then struck a settlement with McCraven.

McCraven could have amended his lawsuit, but he instead withdrew the suit. In June, he also dropped a union grievance in exchange for a 10-day suspension, six months’ back pay and a transfer to a $111,432-a-year job as senior adviser to the IDOC’s chief of parole.

But IDOC moved to fire McCraven last month — following a series of Chicago Sun-Times stories that revealed his criminal history.

McCraven’s discharge becomes official Monday, IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer said.

“The cause is related to inconsistencies in employment applications, which violated the Department of Corrections’ standards of conduct rule,” Shaer explained.

Asked why IDOC hired McCraven last year after the department’s director was made aware that McCraven was previously deemed unfit for employment there, Shaer said that Godinez doesn’t recall McCraven being detailed to the agency in 2011 — or being terminated from it two months later.

“An interagency detail might occasionally include the director’s office, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the director is aware of a detail/sharing. The IDOC has 10,850 employees and many interagency details,” Shaer said.

McCraven, according to a source familiar with the matter, also had information expunged from his criminal record sometime after McCraven left the detail in 2011 and before the prison system hired him in 2013. The source declined to elaborate.

Said Shaer: “IDOC’s 2013 background check on Xadrian McCraven was based on information present in his background records at that time.”

Shaer also said that the agency was required to hire McCraven because of the settlement, and that McCraven’s job “did not involve security nor include access to sensitive information.”

The newly obtained records show McCraven admitted to being a member of the Young Latino Organization Disciples — a Humboldt Park-area street gang — between June 1987 and July 1989.

“Over 20 years ago, prior to becoming a licensed social worker and police officer, I was an affiliate of a street gang,” McCraven wrote in his 2011 application to be detailed to the IDOC intelligence unit. “It was a big mistake that I regret. Since then, I have dedicated my life to helping protect society and serving others by joining the law enforcement and social work communities.”

In the DCFS investigation that led to McCraven’s firing from the agency in 2012, inspector general Denise Kane wrote that he was not a licensed social worker.

According to federal court documents, McCraven was convicted of three crimes: disorderly conduct in 1987; illegal handgun possession in 1989; and reckless conduct in 1998.

McCraven, who declined to comment for this story, 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.

That same year, the mother of one of McCraven’s children obtained an order of protection against him in Cook County Circuit Court, records show. She claimed he struck her as she dropped off her son; he claims she was lying in an attempt to block his visits with his son.

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