Senate freeze could cost Quinn appointees paychecks
By Dave McKinney Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief January 18, 2011 9:28PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 40 appointees of Gov. Quinn, including the heads of the Illinois State Police and Illinois Commerce Commission, could get their state paychecks yanked because they never were confirmed by the Illinois Senate.
The staff lawyer representing Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has asked state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican, not to cut any more paychecks to cover this group’s salaries or reimbursement expenses.
Eric Madiar, Cullerton’s chief legal counsel and the Senate parliamentarian, said the clock has run out on the Quinn appointees because they were not confirmed before the 96th term of the General Assembly ended last Wednesday as the state Constitution requires. A new House and Senate representing the 97th General Assembly was sworn in that same day.
Illinois’ Constitution says the Senate must confirm gubernatorial appointees within 60 session days of their appointments. If 60 days pass without Senate action, the nominees are automatically confirmed.
But the Constitution doesn’t speak to what happens if a gubernatorial appointee within that 60-day window never gets the Senate’s stamp of approval and the General Assembly’s term ends, which is now why this group of 38 Quinn picks sits in murky legal territory.
“With their nominations no longer valid, I am unaware of any legal authority permitting the former nominees to continue to draw a salary or receive expense reimbursements,” Madiar wrote in a letter to Topinka.
Topinka spokesman Brad Hahn said the comptroller received the Cullerton letter on Friday and is reviewing it. Hahn said he expected a decision on the matter later this week.
Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said the governor’s office also is reviewing the Cullerton letter and intends to release a formal response Wednesday. Quinn could reappoint everyone on the list, and a new 60-day confirmation window would open.
Acting State Police Director Jonathon Monken and Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Manuel Flores, the former 1st Ward Chicago alderman, are the two highest-profile appointees on the list.
Monken, a 29-year-old West Point graduate and Iraqi War veteran, ran into trouble almost immediately after his March 2009 appointment when senators from both parties said his youth and lack of law-enforcement background made him ill-suited to head the Illinois State Police. Monken was still in the 60-day confirmation window because his nomination wasn’t read into the Senate record until Feb. 8, 2010, which is when the clock started ticking. The Senate was not in session for a full 60 days after that.
Quinn, who has stuck with his $132,566-a-year appointee, has characterized Monken as a “battle-tested leader and administrator.”
The governor named Flores, the former city alderman and one-time aide to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), as the state’s top utility regulator in January 2010, but he has encountered resistance from a bloc of Latino senators. Flores’ name was never read into the Senate record, thus never allowing the 60-day confirmation clock to begin.
Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), vice chairman of the Senate’s Executive Appointments Committee, questioned Flores’ “moral turpitude” and called him Tuesday a “terrible choice” to head the Illinois Commerce Commission.
“He wants to use it as a trampoline to some kind of run later on,” Delgado said, noting he turned down Flores’ request for backing in a possible congressional bid for Gutierrez’s seat had the congressman not opted for re-election.
Delgado said Flores was part of an unsuccessful effort to knock him of the ballot in the 2008 state Senate election, backing rival Joe Moreno, who succeeded Flores as 1st Ward alderman.
“He tried to throw me out of office,” Delgado said of Flores.
The ICC chairman did not return a message left at his state office Tuesday. A woman who answered the phone in his office said Flores did not intend to answer questions on the matter.
Another Quinn cabinet appointee in Cullerton’s crosshairs is state prisons director Gladyse Taylor. She never was confirmed by the Senate to be assistant director the Illinois Department of Corrections, a post she vacated when former prisons chief Michael Randle resigned in 2010.