Rauner enacts transparency reforms by executive order

Brian Costin

Open government and government transparency expert

Brian Costin
January 15, 2015

Rauner enacts transparency reforms by executive order

Executive order regarding posting of new hires signals possible shift in government transparency under new administration.

Just days into his administration, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order increasing transparency and accountability of state and local government by improving the information available to the public via the Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal, or ITAP.

The executive order requires the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, or CMS, to “conspicuously publish all Rutan-Exempt hire on the ITAP, in a list that can be sorted by (a) name, (b) employing State Agency, (c) employing State Agency division, and (d) employing position title.”

The “Rutan-Exempt” designation applies only to specific employees in policymaking or media positions where the standard merit-based hiring procedures are waived.

The measure comes in the wake of an Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, scandal in August 2015 in which former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration was found to have been illegally hiring too many Rutan-Exempt, or political, hires to the controversial “staff assistant” position.

The investigation revealed “some 255 people were hired over a period of 10 years in violation of anti-patronage rules,” according to the State Journal-Register, and resulted in the firing of IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider, and 58 IDOT workers being laid off.

Rauner’s executive order to increase transparency over these types of hires should be heralded. Rauner’s team will be making lots of political hires in the first weeks and months of his administration, so it’s important to establish a transparency precedent immediately. The public and media deserve the extra opportunity to scrutinize Rutan-Exempt employees in a new administration, especially in the wake of previous scandals.

The executive order also included additional transparency measures aimed at increasing local government transparency. Public Act 97-0744, requiring county, township and municipal employee salaries to be placed on the ITAP website, was passed in 2012 and went into effect Jan. 1, 2013.  A 2013 bill later added library districts to the types of government agencies required to disclose salary information on the ITAP website.

Despite having more than two years to implement the PA 97-0744, Quinn’s administration was unsuccessful in complying with the transparency law, citing no appropriations for the program.

Rauner’s move in signing an executive order on transparency sets the stage for an expedited implementation of the law using existing agency resources.

Once implemented, these two measures will represent an immediate improvement to the transparency and accountability of state and local government in Illinois.

While much more must be done to improve ethics and transparency in Illinois, hopefully these initial moves represent an early sign of a culture change in the way state government operates.

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