Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Quinn's Deputy Chief of Staff Steps Down Amid IDOT Controversy

Sean O'Shea is the latest transportation official to jump ship.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chief of staff is stepping down amid controversy alleged improper patronage hiring inside the Illinois Department of Transportation.

    Sean O'Shea leaves the Quinn administration on Friday after a three-year tenure that included  supervising IDOT and its recruitment of senior policy brass, reports Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz.

    The Quinn camp told Hinz that O'Shea's exit is not related to the unfolding clout scandal and that he is jumping ship to work for a private company, a development "in the works for weeks."

    O'Shea previously worked for the Clinton administration and for Hillary Clinton during her stint as a U.S. Senator from New York. According to Capitol Fax, "O’Shea had made a mortal enemy out of House Speaker Michael Madigan over the years," which could have contributed to his departure.

    Last week, Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza issued a report revealing a pervasive pattern within the agency of staffing non-policy jobs with political hires. Meza did not cite Quinn as responsible for the problem. In response, ex-IDOT chief Ann Schneider pointed a finger at Quinn, accusing his office of "pushing the vast majority" of patronage recruits.

    "Neither I nor my staff were in a position to reject the recommended individuals for these exempt positions as no additional interview process was required," Schneider said Friday.

    Striking back Tuesday, Quinn called a press conference during which he blamed Schneider for not doing her duty in screening job applicants. She stepped down from her position in June.

    "The bottom line is all directors, all departments have a duty to make sure that they comply with the rules I've set down, the rules that are set in law, I expect that I and expect accountability from those who are secretaries or directors of department. When that isn't done, there's accountability and I took action," he said.

    As a result of Meza's ethics report, IDOT has axed 58 employees and frozen job opportunities for applicants with political clout.

    Meanwhile, Quinn is embroiled in a bitter re-election race against Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who's successfully campaigning on a vow to "shake up Springfield" and unseat "career politicians" on the Democratic side of the aisle. The incumbent faces a tough battle ahead—especially in October, when anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman heads to federal court as part of his proposal to investigate IDOT hiring practices and recruit a watchdog to keep an eye on anything illegal at every state agency.

    Rauner, his eyes on the prize Nov. 4, released a statement saying, "It's time for Pat Quinn to stop misleading voters about his illegal patronage hiring schemes. This scandal goes straight to the top; there's no one left to fire except Quinn himself."