Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order Thursday requiring information about all political hires to be posted online, the latest in a series of early moves he said are intended to send the message that change has arrived in Illinois.
The Winnetka Republican said he issued his order in response to improper hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation under former Democratic Govs. Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich. He said the public deserves to know who's getting taxpayer-funded jobs based on politics, rather than strictly because of their qualifications.
Rauner also said he's firing almost all of the agency heads and top staffers who worked under Quinn, though some may eventually be rehired. And he said he's leaning toward reversing the appointments and executive orders Quinn issued since he lost his bid for re-election in November, including an order requiring state vendors and subcontractors to pay a $10 minimum wage, instead of the $8.25 they had been paying.
"We're setting a tone early. We want to take decisive action early," Rauner said. "This is a big turnaround. It's a big cultural change. ... These are just some of the first steps of many that we'll take together."
The executive orders by Rauner and Quinn — including three Quinn issued in his final hours in office — have criticized by some as an overreach of their authority.
Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, has said his chamber plans to study the orders, noting the Legislature rejected several of Quinn's during his six years in office.
The issue of politically connected hiring at IDOT surfaced repeatedly during last year's campaign, as Rauner tried to link Quinn to the practices of the now-imprisoned Blagojevich.
An investigation by the state's Office of Executive Inspector General that was made public in August showed that since 2013, the agency had hired more than 200 people without adhering to rules that prohibit political considerations. Those court-ordered rules are intended to ensure that state jobs — other than certain policy-related and inner-circle positions — are open to everyone and filled by the most qualified applicants.
A federal judge also ordered the appointment of a monitor to review hiring, after an anti-patronage advocate filed a lawsuit.
In response to an open records request from The Associated Press, Illinois officials said last May there were more than 4,700 state government positions that could be filled without following the court-ordered rules. They said about 1,700 of those positions were vacant, leaving about 3,000 employees who were considered political hires.
Rauner said he saw "up close" how difficult it was to get a list of those employees.
Rauner on Thursday also ordered the state to help local governments comply with a law requiring them to post information about employees, their salaries, and contracts on a state website.
Earlier this week, Rauner issued an order freezing non-essential spending. Among other things, it requires employees to get permission from the governor's budget office before any out-of-state travel, and orders state agencies to save energy by lowering the heat and turning off lights when a room isn't in use.