CHICAGO – Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Erica Borggren today announced a series of personnel reforms to improve accountability and restore public trust at the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The measures are the result of a directive by Gov. Pat Quinn’s office to ensure the agency’s hiring practices are held to higher standards. That, in the wake of June’s resignation of Secretary Ann Schneider, who had come under fire over hiring practices, including the employment and promotion of her own stepdaughter.
“Governor Quinn deployed me here to IDOT to lead an important mission and take strong, quick action to ensure all of our hiring and personnel actions, as well as everything else we do, is fully above board, ” Borggren said. “These initiatives that we are putting into effect immediately show that is exactly what we are doing.”
The reforms announced by Borggren are part of a broader reform effort and cover three main areas:
• Material reorganization. To streamline operations, the staff assistant position will be eliminated. The 58 staff assistants currently at IDOT will be laid off and the position abolished entirely. The decision comes after IDOT worked for months to reclassify these positions once an internal audit determined that employees in many cases were performing duties not in their official job descriptions, a practice that has been in place for at least 10 years under multiple administrations. The internal review will continue and any future problems will be addressed immediately, she said.
• Creation of Merit Board. Today, Quinn signed an executive order creating a Department of Transportation Technical Merit Board to ensure the integrity of all personnel matters involving employees covered by IDOT’s technical code, the hiring policies and protocols that are separate from the state’s regular Personnel Code. This external, independent body will help to oversee the technical code process and provide greater accountability and transparency. The merit board also will collaborate with the agency as it works to better define which positions should be under the technical code.
• Maintain freeze on the establishment of new Rutan-exempt positions indefinitely. In addition to these reforms, Borggren is ordering that the moratorium on the creation of new Rutan-exempt positions first instituted by Quinn be continued indefinitely.
With today’s announcement, Borggren said she has completed or has initiated all nine of the directives issued by Quinn’s office to reform the agency’s personnel practices. This guidance included a comprehensive independent audit of all Rutan-exempt positions, stringent annual evaluations to make sure employees are fulfilling their correct job responsibilities, and Rutan training for IDOT’s personnel and executive staff, which is ongoing and will be complete soon.
“To effectively meet our goals, we must have confidence from the public. These reforms and our ongoing efforts will only help to make IDOT the best agency it can possibly be,” she said in a statement.