In IL patronage scandal, guv's office tries to suppress emails

Two employees face hearing for hiring political friends but emails - which the state wants to suppress - show they were under heavy pressure from above.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, is in the middle of a political maelstrom over accusations that his employees manipulated who gets state jobs - in violation of a Supreme Court ruling. ZDNet previously reported that the administration rolled out a Web-based employment system aimed at stopping "a few bad apples" from manipulating who gets the jobs.

But on Thursday, the administration sought to exclude from the case hundreds of internal emails that show the governor's office could be at the heart of the scandal, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Two state employees - Dawn DeFraties, formerly a deputy personnel director at the state's Department of Central Management Services, and Michael Casey, her assistant - are facing an administrative hearing for the violations but the emails show that they were responding to heavy pressure from above.

In one of the e-mail exchanges, an aide to Blagojevich's patronage chief asked Casey for information about a job applicant who was having trouble getting hired to the state's professional regulation agency. The applicant had donated $500 to Blagojevich's campaign six days earlier, according to records.

"We need to find out what it will take to make him pass (the state employment test)," the aide wrote to Casey. "Is he that far off?"

Casey responded in an e-mail: "I would consider it kind of far off when he has 'no credible experience or related degree.'" Nonetheless, the applicant was later hired to the position.

Lawyers for the state now want those emails barred from evidence, claiming the defense kept the emails a secret until just before the hearing. How emails sent by government officials would be unknown to state attorneys is something of a mystery.

Defense attorney Carl Draper said Thursday that the e-mails prove "the governor's office is the only one asking for special treatment for (job) applicants."

"They (the administration) don't want there to be any testimony implicating the governor's office," said Draper, who will argue for the rehiring of DeFraties and Casey at a state Civil Service Commission hearing that starts Monday in Springfield. "To the extent that there was any special treatment (of job applicants), the requests came from there."

A Blagojevich spokeswoman said the defense was able to pick and choose which emails to submit in the case and didn't give a full picture of communications between the two and the governor's staff.

"The correspondence is one-sided and incomplete," said spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff. "That's a discussion we'll be having with the (administrative) judge."

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