In the annals of Illinois corruption, Jerry Stermer’s sending three politically-oriented e-mails from his government account rates right up there with Paul Simon forgetting to itemize a gift box of Girl Scout cookies on his campaign disclosure form.
Stermer, Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief of staff, even turned himself in to the Inspector General’s Office when he realized his error.
But Pat Quinn, who doesn’t have the management skills to organize a one-float parade, turned this non-scandal into a crisis by firing Inspector General James A. Wright on the same day Wright reported that Stermer “engaged in prohibited political activity” and suggested that Attorney General Lisa Madigan should narc him out to the state ethics board.The Sun-Times laid out the whole story in an expose by ace political reporter Dave McKinney.
“This disturbing report leads to a myriad of questions that the citizens of Illinois deserve to have answered,” state Sen. Bill Brady said in a press release.
Here’s the most interesting question: if Quinn fired Wright to protect Stermer, as Brady is suggesting (sorry about that telenovela-like chain), then why did Stermer up and quit?
In his letter of resignation, Stermer wrote that “the people of Illinois must have full confidence in the leadership of their state, and I will not be a distraction in achieving that goal.”
But Stermer became an even bigger distraction by resigning. Now, he’s become another symbol of the disorder in Pat Quinn’s political world.
Last week, Quinn fired his ad men, AKPD Media, the firm founded by David Axelrod. According to AKPD, they and the governor had “divergent approaches to disciplined, professional communications.” This year alone, three spokespeople have quit on Quinn. Even if it’s true, as Quinn insists, that he’d been planning to fire Wright for over a year, it was a real boner to dismiss him the day he came out with a report implicating the governor’s chief of staff.
You can’t blame Stermer for wanting to leave an operation like that. Quinn’s defeat is looking more likely every day. The resignation of his chief of staff makes it even likelier.