Reporting Dana Kozlov
CHICAGO (CBS) – Bloated and politically padded. Those are words a government watchdog group was using to describe state boards and commissions filled with members appointed by the governor.
More than a year ago, in a story CBS 2 did with the Better Government Association, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office pledged to review the state’s boards and commissions to identify possible cost savings.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov checked back and found nothing has changed in the past 14 months.
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The Illinois Human Rights Commission is just one of 335 state boards and panels whose members are appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn. Some commissioners are paid for their service, at a cost to the state of about $10 million a year in total.
“That’s $10 million that needs to be looked at to make sure that taxpayers are really getting the most bang for their buck,” said BGA Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator Emily Miller.
It’s something the governor pledged to do 14 months ago, after the BGA and CBS 2 questioned him on the need for the commissions – many that are filled by Quinn as political favors, according to Miller.
“The Human Rights Commission is a good example. Five of those members that were reappointed by Governor Quinn are politically connected to the Democratic Party,” she said.
Fourteen months ago, the governor said his office was working on a comprehensive review of all boards and commissions to identify ways to save money and increase efficiency.
But the governor hasn’t taken any action yet to streamline any state boards or commissions.
“The governor’s office has said that that’s going to be a priority for them in 2013, and we hope that it does in fact shape up to be that way,” Miller said.
Certainly, every panel is different.
Marty Castro, chairman of the Human Rights Commission, defended the need for 13 paid commissioners.
“This is not a bloated commission,” he said. “In fact, we are working on a shoestring. We are working as a lean agency.”
The 13 members of the Illinois Human Rights Commission are paid at least $46,960 a year, plus health and pension benefits. At the time of the initial report on the state panels, time sheets obtained by the BGA through Freedom of Information requests showed the commissioners worked an average of 13 hours a month. That works out to more than $300 an hour.
However, the commission’s staff has said those time sheets do not reflect the amount of time commissioners spend working on cases outside of official meetings.
Castro said he believes the members of the commission deserve the salary and benefits they are paid for what is essentially a part-time job.
“Looking at the totality of what we do as a commission, I think they very much deserve the compensation that they receive,” he said.
Quinn wouldn’t discuss the matter on Wednesday, but in a statement, a spokesperson said, “We have been meeting regularly to carefully identify a list of several boards for removal. We continue to pursue reforms.”
Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor still aims to increase commission efficiency, and the governor’s office expects to have an announcement sometime next month.
The BGA said hopes Quinn follows through on that this time.