The weekly Statehouse Insider by Doug Finke of the State Capitol Bureau
SPRINGFIELD -- This week’s vocabulary builder is “Kafkaesque.” Look it up and see if you think it applies to the case of DAWN DEFRATIES and MICHAEL CASEY.
DeFraties and Casey used to work in the personnel section of the Department of Central Management Services. If you apply for a state job under Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, the application goes through CMS.
A year ago, the Blagojevich administration announced the two had been fired for giving favored treatment to applications from politically connected job seekers. The administration crowed about how it showed they were dedicated to rooting out corruption.
From the beginning, CARL DRAPER, the attorney for DeFraties and Casey, said the two were being made scapegoats for an administration dogged by federal investigations into alleged corruption in its operations.
DeFraties and Casey wanted their jobs back. That’s done through the Civil Service Commission. The process is that an administrative law judge holds hearings to receive testimony and evidence in the case. The judge evaluates the material, applies state law and issues a recommendation. The recommendation is then reviewed by the five-member commission (appointed by Blagojevich) and a final ruling is issued.
DeFraties and Casey had their hearing before Judge ANTHONY DOS SANTOS. For days, attorneys for the state called witness after witness to buttress their case that DeFraties and Casey deserved to be fired. The state also offered hundreds of pages of applications and logs and other stuff to back up its charges.
When the state thought it had proved its point, it rested. Draper, in turn, didn’t call a single witness. He said he didn’t have to. He said the state’s case was full of holes.
Dos Santos issued his recommendations two weeks ago. The state had leveled seven charges against DeFraties and Casey in two separate counts. Dos Santos said the state didn’t prove five of the charges. He said evidence supported the other two, although they were not the most serious charges brought against DeFraties and Casey, and he said the two should not have been fired for what they did. He recommended 14-day suspensions.
Despite all of that, the commission last week said it needed more evidence. Members voted to send the case back for further hearings. Or something. No one is quite sure what at this point.
Here’s the thing. There’s apparently no timetable for any of this to happen, including on when the commission must finally rule, one way or another. In fact, additional evidence can be collected and if the commission decides it still needs more, it can remand the case again. The rule allowing a case to be remanded doesn’t set a limit on the number of times. And until the commission does rule, DeFraties and Casey remain in limbo.
At the rate this is going, DeFraties and Casey won’t be seen as corrupt employees. They’ll be seen as martyrs.
*The Civil Service Commission chairman is CHRIS KOLKER, who was appointed to the post by Blagojevich in 2004. Following the hearing last week, Kolker did his best impression of his mentor.
While reporters waited to ask him questions about the commission’s action, Kolker ducked out a back door and quickly headed for his car, reporters trying to follow. He made it to the car and drove off, successfully fending off any attempt to shed light on the situation.
*On Tuesday, the Senate had a special visitor, the governor of the eastern province of the Republic of Rwanda.
Just guessing, but that’s probably the first governor most senators have seen in the building for months.
*Every other year, the city of Chicago hosts a miniature version of Taste of Chicago in Springfield. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the real thing, featuring food from some famous Chicago restaurants and wall-to-wall people.
This year, attendees were given gift bags as they left the event. Inside of a tote were the following items: one of those games where you have to roll tiny ball bearings into slots, two bags of jelly beans, one set of jacks, one paddleball set, and a tiny container of Silly Putty.
Given the way things are going this year in the General Assembly, lawmakers -- and Blagojevich -- should find all of that stuff handy.