• Rich Miller: parties create foundation of state lobbying

    27 August 2019

    Rich Miller of Capitol Fax wrote this in a column that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on Aug. 25, 2019:

    For decades, all four caucuses [of the Ill. General Assembly] have offered the same basic career ladder to select employees: Work immensely hard during [the legislative] session, then bust your hump during campaigns, then eventually supervise campaigns, then become a lobbyist and oversee multiple campaigns every cycle. It's basically the foundation of the contract lobbying system in Springfield.

  • Chicago Police Dept. merit promotions list identifies sponsors

    10 February 2017

    The Chicago Police Department released a list of officers promoted since 2006 by way of merit selection—identifying the sponsor of each promotee.

  • Just how many Metra investigations are we paying for?

    26 August 2013
    Leading up to and in the wake of Metra executive director Alex Clifford's resignation in June of 2013, a number of public and private bodies investigated or are investigating Metra. All of these efforts are being paid for by taxpayers and Metra riders. Here's a rundown.
  • Inspector General to police: replace badges with civilians

    1 February 2013

    The Chicago's Inspector General's Office issued a report recommending that the Chicago Police Department use civilians to staff hundreds of positions currently held by police officers—saving up to $16.6 million per year.

  • New County Recorder tried illegal hiring influence

    3 December 2012

    The new Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough tried to illegally influence hiring before taking office, according to a federal monitor.

  • To Mayor Emanuel, Some Jobs Are Worth More than Others

    8 November 2012

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the possible effects of the city council holding hearings on privatization deals, and more.

  • Fighting for the Right to Fire Bad Teachers—and Good Ones Too

    27 September 2012

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the number of Chicago charter schools having union representation, and more.

  • The Last Democracy in Chicago?

    20 September 2012

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the mistake of separating teachers from the union representing them, and more.

  • Jobs program funnels money to corporations

    14 September 2012
    The Chicago Tribune has reported that a new city/county jobs program will steer public funds to private businesses.
        The City of Chicago will reportedly give the organization, Skills for Chicagoland's Future, over $2.1 million. The program's head, Marie Trzupek Lynch, said she hopes to give millions of dollars to local companies to offset employee-training costs.
        Local billionaire Penny Pritzker chairs the organization's board of directors.
  • Federal monitor: city won't punish misbehaving managers

    2 July 2012

    Noelle Brennan, a court-appointed federal hiring monitor, issued a report blasting the City of Chicago. Brennan says the city still refuses to discipline high-level department managers for proven hiring abuses.

  • Revenue Investigator Bernell Hopkins

    7 June 2010

    “If a dog was promoted I would be unable to say anything.”

    Department: Business Affairs & Licensing

    Employed for: Twenty years, now as a revenue investigator (making sure that businesses comply with city licensing rules)

    Cred: Awarded four figures from the federal monitor. Claims that during his career he increased the city’s collection rate on bad checks from 40 to 90 percent. And a former coworker (whom Hopkins trained) says of him, "as an investigator, and as a city worker, he's one of the hardest working." Regularly has to have his regular court appearances rescheduled, because he writes so many citations that they exceed the court's allotted time.

    Background: Decorated Vietnam veteran, graduate of Roosevelt University. Actually likes his job—making sure that businesses comply with city licensing rules—but the stress of his abusive work environment, he says, "gets me so my wife can't deal with me."

    Gripe: Throughout his career the city has turned Hopkins down, in writing, for 25 promotions. In fact, he says, a guy whom a former coworker calls "one of the worst investigators in the department" got promoted over him. ("Everybody was flabbergasted," says the coworker.)

    Why cloutless: In 1996, Hopkins wrote a seven-page letter to the city’s personnel commissioner, detailing his stellar work record and the promotions of less qualified or incompetent persons. In a subsequent meeting with the commissioner's deputies, Hopkins says one of them informed him that "the administration selects and promotes individuals as it sees fit, and I have no right to challenge its authority. She said if a dog was selected or promoted I would be unable to say anything."

    Hopkins' former coworker says that Hopkins' current managers "know whom they can pick on and whom they can't. Burnell wouldn't say something" when harassed.

    Why the city's not compliant: Hopkins believes that the city continues to promote less-qualified workers based on political favoritism. These include the "worst investigator" noted above, and former revenue investigator Abd Ayesh, who received a promotion to supervisor less than two years after reaching Hopkins' rank. Last June, prosecutors charged Ayesh with stealing contraband cigarettes that his department had seized—then giving the cigarettes to convenience stores owned by his family.

    Because he’s pointed out the city's lapses in the past, the past continues to haunt him: Hopkins says that his managers persist in harassment that includes write-ups and attempted suspensions. For example, in 2006, Hopkins was charged with insubordination by a director who, says Hopkins' former coworker, "instantly became abusive with his power" when promoted. The director attempted unsuccessfully to suspend Hopkins. Then, Hopkins' supervisor denied him his last two salary increases, citing a need for "performance improvement." After complaining to his union about the first denial, Hopkins received back pay; his union grievance about the second denial is still pending.

    What now? Hopkins say the aforementioned abusive director told him "I should stop feeling sorry for myself and just quit."

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Streets & San Driver Monroe Heath*

    7 June 2010

    “If I sneeze or look in the wrong direction, I’m written up.”

    Department: Streets and Sanitation

    Employed for: 30+ years, now as a truck driver

    Cred: Awarded five figures from federal monitor Brennan. Previously, after he sent Brennan a 25-page, handwritten letter detailing patronage abuse at Streets & San, the monitor contacted him to make sure he submitted an award claim.

    "She called me," says Heath. "She said she’s never gotten a letter like that." Heath says Brennan told him that his letter "shed lots of light on how things are done" to favor the clouted and screw the rest. Brennan went on to say that Heath’s information would "have a big impact on how people are hired" under the new rules that Brennan’s staff was crafting.

    Gripe: Heath can count almost 30 different job actions against him, including part of the two-dozen times he’d applied for, but didn’t get, a foreman’s job.

    Why the city’s not compliant: Heath describes a tactic used to ensure that more senior but non-clouted employees have worse work records than their clouted peers, making it easier to favor the latter: Managers arbitrarily or disingenuously enforce rules against non-clouted employees, but leave clouted employees alone.

    In fact, federal monitor Brennan, in a 2009 letter to the city’s law department, described this practice as one about which she’d repeatedly gotten complaints. In her memo, Brennan said that managers were "using the performance evaluation process to eliminate the ability of certain individuals to compete against pre-selected individuals for promotional opportunities."

    Heath says he sees it all the time. "A lot of the people involved in HDO [Hispanic Democratic Organization] can do whatever they want and it’s overlooked," he says. "But if I sneeze or look in the wrong direction, I’m written up." For example, Heath says, "anybody in the field is supposed to wear a work vest. That includes supervisors. [The clouted workers] never do. They want you not to stop for coffee. [The clouted workers] always have coffee or donuts in their hands or in their vehicles. They come to work wearing sandals or gym shoes. But you have to wear work boots. They’re supposed to adhere to the same work standards that you do, and it’s just not done."

    Why cloutless: "I was singled out for not being part of the Hispanic Democratic Organization—by not being promoted, not having favorable assignments, always written up, harassed, given [suspensions] . . . and it’s continuing," says Heath, noting that his boss—an HDO hire, he claims—had suspended him on the day before we spoke.

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Police Lieutenant Reuben Slayton*

    7 June 2010

    “We have captains who can't spell 'lieutenant'.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 35+ years

    Cred: Awarded four figures from the federal monitor

    Background: Master's degree in law enforcement; experience in hostage situations and numerous shootings; good physical shape (he runs every day).

    Gripe: Within the last four years Slayton has unsuccessfully applied three times for a promotion to a captain position, of which the department currently has over 70. He claims that, each time, the department has promoted less qualified candidates over him.

    Why the city's not compliant: Slayton says the promotion process has a built-in patronage component, in that the police department can, in each promotion cycle, promote one-third of the applicants "meritoriously"—based on the judgment of superiors rather than test scores, time in service, and education. "That's what pisses me off," says Slayton. "Which brain surgeon do you wanna see? The one who tested well, or the one chosen on merit?"

    The system has resulted, Slayton maintains, in a disappointing lack of leadership and incompetence. "We have captains," he says, "who can't spell 'lieutenant'."

    Why cloutless: Slayton has worked most of his career in the Patrol division, in which most district officers serve. It looked like good place to be, career-wise, under former superintendent Terry Hillard.

    "Hillard said he would make captains from Patrol lieutenants—but he didn't," says Slayton. "Look at where lieutenants were made from: very few from Patrol units." Since Hillard resigned in 2003, Slayton says, mid-rank promotions have come from specialized units, which one needs clout to get into. (See Lt. Madison Beadell.)

    Slayton says the police department has a large number of very qualified officers—"but they don't get promoted cuz they don't have the phone call" from a clouted patron. For example, he says, "it took me 25 years to make sergeant."

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Police Lieutenant Madison Beadell*

    7 June 2010

    “I thought if you did a good job and stayed out of trouble, you’d get somewhere. Boy, was I naive.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 30+ years, now in a police district

    Cred: Awarded five figures from the federal monitor.

    Background: Rated highest in academy class.

    Gripe: Promotions tend to come from the department’s special units, and one must have clout—"You gotta be heavy"—to get into those, e.g.: Forensic Services, [Horse-] Mounted Patrol, Organized Crime, Legal Affairs ("Tons of cops are lawyers, but to get in you gotta have clout"), Narcotics and Gangs, Bomb and Arson ("You gotta be super heavy"), and Airport Law Enforcement.

    "Right after I got out of the academy, when I was working traffic in the Loop during Christmas, this one lieutenant asked me if I wanted to go to [a special unit]. I said, ‘Oh, no, I wanna go back into a district and learn patrol.’ He looked at me like I’d just landed from Mars."

    Why the city’s not compliant: Beadell says that those with clout have always climbed to the rank of lieutenant or above quickly—and they still do. An example: Beadell's first test for lieutenant applicants in 1987. "It was the most disgusting thing," Beadell says, claiming that the department used blatant favoritism in scoring applicants. "I can’t tell you how angry it makes me to think about it."

    What the Feds say: Federal monitor Noelle Brennan has documented ongoing problems with the tests on which the police base promotions. In her December 18, 2007 report to the court, Brennan notes that she tried to stop a lieutenants’ test earlier that year because "individuals with political connections might have access to the correct answers." The city administered the test anyway. And, in her December 4, 2009 report, Brennan wrote, "We are still negotiating the Hiring Plans for the Chicago Police Department and Fire Department, which were expected to have been completed almost two years ago."

    Clout tidbit: The police department’s head of human resources, Tracey Ladner, was moved to police from the city’s law department in 2008 after the Office of Compliance accused her of helping to rig a promotion for the daughter of Brian Crowe, the city’s former corporation counsel. Ladner also got a $10,000 boost in pay.

    Feb. 10, 2017 update

    The Chicago Police Dept. released a list of officers promoted since 2006 by way of merit selection—identifying the sponsor of each promotee.

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Employee Charges City with Affirmative Action Fraud

    27 January 2010
    A senior manager for the City of Chicago alleges that the city has defrauded the federal government for two decades while it's received millions of federal dollars.
  • Office of Compliance blasted in federal-court filings

    20 October 2009

    The city's Office of Compliance—which has ensures that the city hires in a fair way—has come under fire itself for questionable hiring practices.

  • Ben Joravsky, Tool of the Man

    17 September 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the glue that holds patronage together, and more.

  • Dept. of Streets & Sanitation's shady hiring practices outed

    24 June 2009

    A court-mandated report on the status of hiring reforms detailed negligence on the part of the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation. In this audio report, Dave Glowacz gets the scoop from a compliance manager and a Streets & San insider.

  • The Hack Who Pissed Off Harold

    29 January 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the definition of patronage (abused and not), and more.