For the Good of Illinois

Forbes - IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan's 'Friends and Family' $1 Million Patronage Pay Problem(s)

January 30, 2015 12:47 PM
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2015-10-01_13-38-47
 
Original Article, click here.
 
Confronted with our Freedom of Information Act requests and hard questions from the Washington Times, the top cop in Illinois tries to justify a $1 million patronage pay spike problem. She admits that a "supervising" attorney was allowed to move two states away and 507 round-trip miles from the office after receiving a substantial pay raise. Read our Executive Summary here.
 
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has handed out $1 million in patronage pay increases since 2010. Her increases dwarf that of all other Illinois constitutional office holders. In Illinois, patronage employees are excused from the normal rules of appointment and firing of state employees. These lucky 109 "exempt" employees are the friends or personal hiring picks of the Attorney General.
 
This pattern didn’t start with exempt hires. Madigan’s "non-exempt" hires have also come under scrutiny. In December, the Chicago Sun-Times refreshed a 2012 story of For The Good of Illinois.  Ronald Yawger was the Chicago Police (CPD) investigator who "missed" key evidence linking a Mayor Daley nephew to the punch that killed young David Koschman outside a city bar.  In 2007, Yawger retired – but was immediately rehired by Attorney General Lisa Madigan as a Special Investigator.  Since 2008, Yawger’s pay has been spiked from $53,195 to $119,745 (2013). Including his $77,000 CPD pension, Yawger now out-earns every employee in the Attorney General’s office.
 
Madigan’s personal picks her patronage hires–are a very interesting bunch.  One of them is Sarah Pratt who was promoted to the head of the Public Access division with a 49 percent or $32,036 pay hike over two years. She now makes $97,608 and is charged with dispute resolution regarding the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. However, the noted good government organization, Edgar County Watchdogs, have three pending "requests for review" past-due 18 months.  Pratt’s pay spike suggests that Madigan measures good performance by an employee’s ability to slow-walk transparency requests.
 
Madigan’s chief lobbyist – Kareem Kenyatta – comes via her father’s office (Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives).  Although Kenyatta’s responsibility is to lobby legislation on behalf of the state’s top law enforcement officer, he doesn’t have a law degree. Still, Kenyatta is the recipient of a double promotion, a 44 percent pay spike with $20,004 pay bump.
 
But, none of the patronage hire stories is quite as interesting as Cecilia Abundis…
 
In 2010, Cecilia Abundis was promoted into management at Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.  As a patronage hire, Abundis received a 16 percent pay hike. Soon-after, Abundis received permission to move two states away to Michigan and go to a three day per week work schedule.  Abundis’ travel vouchers report repeated 507 mile round-trip journeys between her home and the office at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, IL.
 
Over the past two years, Asst.  Attorney General Abundis’s "field reports" show that she’s "worked from home" 169 days, signed in at the office 117 days and had seven other days with outside duties.  Her field report reveals only one day in the courtroom in the past two years, People v Carrasco in Lake County.  Furthermore, Abundis "worked from home" without access to office files. Responding to our Freedom of Information Act request, Madigan admitted that Abundis has no off-site access to office computers, case files or human resource systems.
 
In yesterday’s Washington Times, Kellan Howell article, the AG public relations team described Abundis with this stunning admission:
 
Based on her extensive experience working on specific consumer fraud matters, the office has allowed her to work part time from home and come into the office approximately one week per month and as needed for meetings and court appearances. She handles a number of consumer fraud investigations and is part of a team of attorneys working on several cases.
 
Yet, the office time card record shows that Abundis didn’t even show-up at the office in five months out of the past two years:  in 2013- February, June, July and December; in 2014- July. Please review time card records here.
 
Compounding matters for the Attorney General, state records show that Madigan personally signed off on eighteen travel reimbursement vouchers between 2010 – 2012 to visit "mom" in Chicago.  Taxpayers paid Abundis’ travel from Michigan to her mother’s residence in Chicago:  Departed from- Residence (MI);  Arrived at- Mom’s Residence. Review travel voucher, here. Taxpayers reimbursed 55 cents per mile or up to $280 dollars per round-trip.
 
Many questions remain unanswered: how can travel reimbursements for out-of-state travel be paid from "1291: In-State Travel, Employee Reimbursement" account? This "reimbursement" isn’t in-state travel as Abundis clearly lives two states away from Illinois in Dearborn, MI. This "reimbursement" is most likely taxable as income.
 
With Illinois having a forecasted $6 billion of unpaid bills, all waste and corrupt practices must be squeezed from the state checkbook.  The Attorney General should look at her office before seeking the rent of others.
 
Note:  Adam Andrzejewski is the Founder of OpenTheBooks.com and Chairman of American Transparency. All data in this article is the result of requests filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
 
Original Article, click here.
 

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