Topinka Proposes Veterans' Preference Reforms to Ensure Compliance
July 10, 2006
Calls on Blagojevich to Release Eligible Lists of Job Applicants in Accordance with State Law and Public Disclosure
Chicago, IL Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka today proposed a package of reforms designed to compel proper enforcement of the Veterans' Preference in state civil service job hiring.
Topinka also asked Governor Rod Blagojevich to follow existing law and release the eligible lists of job applicants in cases where questionable hires of political patrons and cronies may have violated both the veterans' preference requirement and Rutan guidelines. In recent weeks, news reports have detailed hiring decisions at both the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Corrections which may have favored politically-connected candidates over better-qualified veterans.
Unfortunately, Governor Blagojevich has presided over a hiring process that appears to have ignored a state-mandated preference for veteran candidates in favor of politically-connected campaign donors and cronies, said Topinka. And now, despite troubling questions about these hires, the Governor is refusing to release the respective lists of job applicants despite a statutory requirement for public openness.
We need reforms to the system to ensure veterans receive the hiring rights they have earned.
Specifically, Topinka proposes the following reforms:
* Veterans' Preference Certification: Topinka proposes adding a certification requirement to state civil service hiring that compels the employing agency to certify that the veteran preference laws have been followed and that no veteran has been illegally or improperly passed over for the job in question. Currently, an employing agency already must certify in writing that the agency has fully complied with the Rutan ruling in a hiring decision or that the position in question is Rutan exempt. The Veterans' Preference Certification simply would be incorporated into the existing Rutan certification process.
* Veterans' Hiring Compliance Panel: Topinka proposes the creation of a Veterans' Hiring Compliance Panel based in the Lt. Governor's Office to scrutinize all records related to employment practices in state agencies. The Panel would have access to a list of all open civil service positions, as well as the names, resumes, grades, and test results for all applicants to ensure that the Veterans' Preference is consistently and legally applied. The Panel would consist of: the Lt. Governor or his or her representative; the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs or his or her representative; and an independent appointee of the Governor who will be a veteran or veteran's activist from outside government.
Both Governor Blagojevich and Lt. Governor Quinn like to pay lip-service to veterans, but when it comes to protecting their interests in the state hiring process, the Blagojevich-Quinn Administration has been AWOL, said Topinka.
Illinois veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for our state and nation through their service in the armed forces. The least we can do is reward their service and heroism with a guarantee that they will be favorably considered for civil service jobs in Illinois when they return from their tours of duty.