CHICAGO (CBS) — Democratic candidate for governor Bill Daley continued his attack on incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn to rescind his controversial pick for the CTA board, but ducked questions about patronage hiring under his brother and father, both former mayors.
Quinn has nominated Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli – an influential Democratic powerbroker – to the Chicago Transit Authority Board, despite a state law barring transit board members from holding other government posts.
The governor’s office has said the law prohibiting transit board members from holding paid federal, state, county or municipal jobs does not apply to township posts.
“I think it’s a disgrace. I think you also have the issue of the governor’s office having to come up with some legal rationale as to why this doesn’t violate the double-dipping law, and I think that’s just a lot of baloney,” Daley said.
He said it violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law, to appoint Zuccarelli to the $25,000-a-year CTA board spot, while he’s already making $128,000 a year as Thornton Township Supervisor.
“To do this sort of blatant political thing is crazy,” he said. “It continues this erosion of confidence.”
Quinn defended his nomination, saying Zuccarelli has been elected to six terms in office. He also said it’s important to have someone representing the southern suburbs on the CTA Board.
“The CTA should deal with all of the people in the Chicago area, whether it’s city or suburb. The south suburbs have been left behind over and over again, and I know Frank Zuccarelli will be a strong voice for the south suburbs,” he said. “I’m not going to let him be a punching bag.”
The governor said Zuccarelli is a veteran who put himself through community college after he completed his service, and then served in an unpaid position as president of South Suburban College.
“He understands everyday people. He understands how important it is that the CTA not just go north, and west, but also go south,” he said. “I think it’s important to have someone on the CTA Board that stands up for the south suburbs.”
Daley said if Quinn won’t withdraw the nomination, the Illinois Senate Assignments Committee should vote against it.
He also said Quinn nominated Zuccarelli for the CTA board because of Zuccarelli’s political support, not for any transportation expertise.
He noted Zuccarelli is one of several Cook County Democratic committeemen who will soon meet to consider whether to endorse Quinn’s bid for re-election, and he said Zuccarelli’s only transportation experience has been “driving voters to the polls.”
“I didn’t say he was incompetent, but there’s more than just someone being literate to hold a job,” Daley said. “I think right now you’ve got to look at it, and say we have a crisis going on in different agencies in transportation, and is this the time to appoint someone who may be a smart man, may be a very good political leader that gets out big votes, but is that a reason to appoint somebody to the CTA?”
Zuccarelli’s appointment has drawn increasing scrutiny, following the resignation of Metra Board chairman Brad O’Halloran, after revelations he was taking pay as an Orland Park trustee while on the board.
For his own part, Daley declined to answer questions from reporters about patronage hiring under his brother and father, both former longtime Chicago mayors.
“I’m standing here as my own person. You can make judgments about past administrations, or relatives, or whatever you want, but I’m telling you what I believe,” Daley said.
Daley’s older brother, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, faced repeated scandals over hiring practices at City Hall, including the Hired Truck scandal, and the rigging of city hiring tests to favor politically-connected applicants – which led to the conviction of his patronage chief, Robert Sorich. Another longtime Daley aide, Al Sanchez, also was convicted of a scheme to rig hiring to favor loyal campaign workers.