Former State Representative Careen Gordon’s new state job “doesn’t pass the smell test,” State Senator Matt Murphy says.
“The whole thing is disappointing and disillusioning to people,” the Palatine Republican noted today. “It’s that she campaigned vigorously against a tax increase last fall, then votes for the increase, and a day later she gets a high-paying state job. It’s a conflict of interest and doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Gordon, a Morris Democrat who lost her bid for re-election to the Illinois House to then-candidate Sue Rezin, a Morris Republican later named a state senator, began work Monday as an associate general counsel in the Professional Regulation Division of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The job is full-time with an annual pay of $84,000 per year.
The salary is about $2,000 under the $86,000 she would have been earning had she not withdrawn her nomination for a seat on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
Gov. Pat Quinn nominated Gordon for the parole board two days after the lame duck session of the outgoing General Assembly passed a 67 percent personal state income tax increase, and a corporate tax increase of 8 percent.
Quinn sought the increases, which passed by a one-vote margin. Gordon cast a yes vote for the increase, after vigorously campaigning last fall against any tax increases.
“On a bipartisan basis, the State Senate stood up to Quinn on the Prisoner Review Board nomination and said, ‘This doesn’t look right, and we’re not going to let you do this,’” Murphy said today. “Basically, he’s thumbing his nose at the entire Senate. The outward appearance (of the associate general counsel appointment) is that he’s paying her back for her vote on the tax increase. I think he needs to be more sensitive to that appearance.”
Murphy is minority spokesman on the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee, and member of the Appropriations, Higher Education, Judiciary Civil Law and Revenue Committees, and the Special Committee on Impeachment Procedure.
He believes Gordon is an at-will employee.
“Which means that as long as Quinn’s around, she has the ability to stay around,” he said. “This would be a full-time position, and probably precludes outside work.”
Murphy said only the current administration would know if there were other applicants for the position.
“I find it hard to believe she was the only qualified person in the state for the job,” he said. “The issues she will be dealing with there are significantly different than those of the Prisoner Review Board. He said she is uniquely qualified for this job.”
Murphy suspects the position has existed, but he didn’t know whether it meant adding a person or filling a vacancy.
“Part of the problem with the whole situation is, given the appearance of it all, you can’t help but assume the worst,” he said. “It is not the right image to bring onto a state that has a governor on trial and another governor already in jail. I understand she has to get a job and make a living, but I think this does damage to both (Quinn and Gordon’s ) reputations.”
Murphy assumed Gordon will work from both the Chicago and Springfield offices. He wasn’t certain if she possibly could be reimbursed for travel expenses.
Quinn spokesman Annie Thompson said Gordon will work from the Chicago office. She moved to the city shortly after the lame duck session.
Thompson said Gov. Quinn’s support of Gordon has never changed.
“He likes her background, and her work in the General Assembly made her a great fit for this department,” Thompson said. “A large part of what she’s doing is drafting and working on legislation. He’s known her for quite some time, felt she’s a great public servant, and she should continue to help Illinois.
Thompson’s understanding is the position was vacant, and the legal office is quite understaffed.
“So, she’s filling a much-needed vacancy,” Thompson said. “She has to follow the rules for all state employees, and fill out a statement of economic interest for any outside work.”
Senator Rezin deferred her comments to Senator Murphy.
State Representative Pam Roth, who was appointed to fill the Illinois House seat after Rezin was appointed to the State Senate, said today she was not surprised at Gordon’s getting the state job.
“The governor’s been pretty bent on getting her a position within the state,” Roth, a Morris Republican, said. “I heard rumblings about that a couple weeks ago.”
Roth sponsored legislation in February that would stop the practice of awarding state jobs to former lawmakers within a certain period of time, but the bill — which would have prevented such as the Gordon situation — failed to make it out of committee.
“I’ll refile it again next year,” she said.