Friday, December 12, 2008

Illinois speculations

The "pay to play" scandal in which Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich apparently sought to sell off Barack Obama's Senate seat for personal profit throws a distressing light over this December 9 AP story.

Blagojevich hires 208 guards with no prison to guard
SPRINGFIELD ‹ Just weeks after Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced hundreds of layoffs because of state budget woes, his administration hired 208 prison guards who don't have a prison to guard.

The Department of Corrections hired the employees for the Thomson Correctional Center in October at a cost of $10.8 million for their first year of work, according to a review of state records. They were supposed to provide security at the prison in northwestern Illinois for inmates being transferred from the Pontiac prison, which Blagojevich has said he'd close to save $4 million a year, a corrections spokesman said Monday.

But the Pontiac prison still is open because of a lawsuit filed by union officials on behalf of employees. And the Pontiac mayor says his city was "duped" because corrections officials promised jobs for most of the displaced workers.

Without new inmates at Thomson, 89 of the new hires will be reassigned to Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet starting Wednesday, meaning $9,000 a week in housing costs, spokesman Derek Schnapp said.

So -- do we figure that Thomson city authorities perhaps failed to pay up as anticipated? And that Pontiac leaders refused the governor's winks and nods? Or that the guards' union missed a fundraiser where they were expected to kick in? Or was there a developer in Joliet with underused buildings who needed tenants and made a nice contribution to the chief executive?

All irresponsible speculation, not based by any facts. But given what was released in the tapes showing Blagojevich's understanding of the perks of his position, it's hard not to wonder.

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