The following editorial appeared in the Herald&Review, Decatur, Ill., on Wednesday, Jan. 19:
(MCT) — Illinois residents will never know if former Illinois Rep. Careen Gordon, D-Morris, traded her vote on the state’s huge income tax increase for a lucrative job in state government.
But no one can blame taxpayers for wondering.
Gordon, who was one of the “lame duck” Democrats who voted for the 66 percent rise in the income tax and an increase in corporate tax, has accepted a job with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The position pays $85,866 a year.
Gordon campaigned against tax increases but then voted for the huge increase in the last hours of the General Assembly. Every vote in the House on the tax increase bill was important, since the measure received the minimum needed for approval. Quinn signed the bill into law last week.
Gordon appears qualified for the Review Board job. She was an assistant state’s attorney in Will and Kankakee counties, and she worked as an assistant attorney general under former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan.
But there are undoubtedly other equally qualified candidates for the job in the state. Ones who didn’t cast an important, last-minute vote for the governor’s tax plan.
A Quinn spokesman said there was no deal. “There was no quid pro quo,” Annie Thompson told reporters. “Bottom line, she was appointed because of her extensive background in criminal justice ... She was just the ideal candidate.”
Gordon, who recently moved to Chicago, refused to answer questions about how she became a candidate for the board seat. But she said she didn’t use her vote on the tax increase bill to secure the job.
“There was no deal. That’s untrue,” she said. “My background is a perfect match for someone on the Prisoner Review Board. I’m done talking about it. I’m done being called a liar.”
But the whole process is unseemly. Gordon was appointed to her new state job just a few days after the tax vote, an apparent signal by Quinn that he doesn’t really care how inappropriate that appears.
Even without the income tax vote, legislators should refrain from applying for state jobs while still in office. In fact, a moratorium of a year or two between legislative service and working for the state would benefit everyone. Take the tax vote away and it still appears that Gordon received preferential treatment.
Illinoisans have come to expect such behavior by our elected officials, and who can blame them? These sorts of suspected “deals” happen so often that it’s impossible not to be cynical. The governor’s office and the legislature have no one but themselves to blame for the lack of trust by voters.
Quinn and Gordon had other choices. Quinn didn’t have to offer the job to a sitting legislator. Gordon didn’t have to accept.
Both of them had to know that such a decision would raise questions.
Unfortunately, their answers have done nothing to clarify the situation. Which leads taxpayers to wonder if their higher tax bills were secured by an unethical deal?
Copyright (c) 2011, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.