SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A special counsel to former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says his administration reclassified thousands of state jobs that were once exempt from anti-patronage protections.

Joe Hartzler tells The State Journal-Register that the administration likely made changes to 2,500 positions so an applicant’s political loyalty and connections may no longer be considered during the hiring process.

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that political affiliations shouldn’t play a role in most government jobs, but exemptions were created for some policy-making positions.

Hartzler says reclassifying jobs means an outgoing administration can’t saddle a succeeding administration with political appointees.

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The move follows controversy over hiring in the Illinois Department of Transportation under former Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn. An investigation found people with political connections were hired for jobs that shouldn’t have been exempt from typical state hiring rules.

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