Illinois Senate approves candidate for Legislative Inspector General amid controversy over process
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois is finally close to having a new Legislative Inspector General, months after the previous government watchdog resigned from the post.
State senators voted on a joint resolution Wednesday night to appoint former judge Michael McCuskey as the next Inspector General. Senate President Don Harmon said the role is too important to stay vacant for as long as it has, and his caucus took decisive action.
Although, Republicans said they are furious that it happened within less than 48 hours.
Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) chairs the Legislative Ethics Commission and said Democrats wanted to slide their candidate through without proper vetting.
“Obviously, he’s a very good judge,” Tracy said. “And he’s a very fine reader of statutory authority. But, should we just say, OK, yeah, let’s just hire you and ignore the process?’ Why do we have a process? We showed how failed we were in the process that wasn’t in place before 2017.”
Tracy is referring to the period between 2014 and 2017 when the LIG position sat vacant. Former LIG Carol Pope announced her resignation in July and committed to staying in the role until a replacement was found. She officially left the post on Jan. 6 disappointed that no one would fill the role.
McCuskey was nominated to become a federal judge by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 after presiding over cases for the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court and Third District Appellate Court. He served on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois from 1998 to 2014. McCuskey returned as a judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court from 2014 to 2020. He also served 15 years on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.
Previous candidates appeared before a citizen search committee that conducted interviews and recommended the best candidates for consideration by the Legislative Ethics Commission. Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said McCuskey was willing to go through the proper process before receiving approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission. Republicans feel Democrats quickly pushed him through a makeshift process so they could have their pick in the LIG role.
“He volunteered to work in an acting basis until that process was complete,” McConchie said. “That would’ve given him the stamp of confidence that he went through the legal process. I don’t know what’s going to happen now that that process has been avoided.”
Harmon took many heated questions from Republican senators on the floor Wednesday night before the vote took place. He noted McCuskey has a “stellar resume” and members of the Democratic caucus who know him think highly of the judge.
“The Legislative Inspector General shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability. I’d argue that our appointment clearly satisfies that,” Harmon said. “The Legislative Ethics Commission, despite the fine work of some of its fine members, has failed for four months to advance candidates to the General Assembly for consideration. And so, we’re moving forward today with our resolution.”
The Senate voted 37-17-1 to approve the joint resolution. It now heads to the House before McCuskey can be appointed as the next Legislative Inspector General.
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