By Rick Pearson and Ray Long
Republican governor candidate Bill Brady today called on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to fire the state's prisons chief following an early release plan that a panel ripped for saving money at the expense of public safety.
"I believe the highest obligation of any governor is to protect the interests of the public, the public safety. By allowing these releases to occur, Gov. Quinn failed to meet this obligation," Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, said at a downtown Chicago news conference.
In Springfield, Quinn responded that he would not fire corrections chief Michael Randle, saying "I don't need a lecture from Sen. Brady."
Quinn defended Randle, calling him a nationally known expert on prison matters.
"I'm not going to change the director," Quinn said during an interview today at the Executive Mansion. "He did make a mistake. He took responsibility for it."
Brady's call for Randle's ouster came after Quinn released a report Friday that reviewed the circumstances surrounding the controversial program known as Meritorious Good Time Push.
Under it, the state let out 1,745 inmates out of prison an average of 36 days early as a cost-savings move. Some of those released committed new crimes
The report from former judge David Erickson concluded that the program was a "mistake" and "ill-conceived."
Quinn has said he was unaware that the program was being implemented by Randle and ordered it stopped in December after he found out. But Brady today maintained that the report showed "knowledge of this program was widespread among senior officials" and called it "one of the greatest lapses in public safety in recent history."
"How is it possible that Corrections Director Michael Randle still has a job?" the Republican asked. "If the governor doesn't remove Director Randle, that will be one of the first resignations I will accept on my first day in office."
On Friday, Quinn acknowledged for the first time that he did consider firing Randle. Today, the governor again said that he has established a director of public safety and a liaison between the prison agency and the governor's office.
Brady has come under fire for failing to detail how he would implement budget cuts to the state's deficit-plagued budget in lieu of the income-tax hike Quinn supports. Asked how he would achieve cost savings at the Illinois Department of Corrections, Brady said he would seek a detailed audit of the agency, cut down on mid-level bureaucracy in favor of front line prison guards and eliminate cable television in prisons.
Erickson's report, politically embarrassing to the election-seeking governor, was released on a Friday afternoon -- a time traditionally reserved by politicians to deliver bad news. In a bit of a role reversal, Brady sought to publicly exploit the report by using a longtime Quinn tactic -- a Sunday news conference scheduled when news tends to be scarce.
Seeking to underscore his law-and-order bonafides, Quinn contended his support for a ban on assault weapons is a stark contrast to Brady's opposition to it.
A ban has long been backed by Mayor Richard Daley, but legislation has repeatedly stalled in a General Assembly sharply by regional and philosophical differences between the gun rights of hunters and the desires of Chicago-area politicians who want to ban assault-styled weapons.
"I believe in banning assault weapons," Quinn said. "Sen. Brady is the poster boy for the assault weapons makers."