Maag violated ethics law, workers say

By Ann Knef | Oct 14, 2004

The Maag flyer in question...

Workers at Vienna Correctional Center are complaining that Appellate Court Judge Gordon E. Maag distributed campaign literature and asked employees for their support during a tour of the facility Oct. 4.

Maag is running for Illinois Supreme Court against Washington County Circuit Judge Lloyd Karmeier.

Three workers, who asked not to be identified, say Maag flagrantly violated a state ethics law passed by the Illinois General Assembly last year.

Backed by Governor Rod Blagojevich, the new ethics rules prohibit political activity by state employees on on state property. The governor also established an 'ethics hotline' for the general public to report wrongdoing to his office.

“It was an ethical violation,” said one worker. “As state employees we were required to take an ethics test. Each employee had to take the test and had to pass. You could take it as many times as you needed, but you had to pass.”

Calls to Maag's campaign office were not returned.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson DeDe Short said it is not unusual to grant elected officials tours of correctional facilities.

“During an Oct. 4 tour at Vienna Correctional Center, IDOC officials became aware Judge Maag was distributing a business card that was political in nature,” Short said. “Judge Maag was told not to distribute it on state grounds and he complied.”

Karmeier's spokesman Steve Tomaszewski said he was aware of the incident. "There is no official comment," he said.

A Vienna worker who called the aforementioned hotline for whistleblowers was surprised that Maag did not have a better understanding of the law.

“You would think that an appellate court judge and attorney should definitely be aware that it violates the law,” said the worker.

“I called the hotline but got a recording stating that if I wanted a form in the mail I should leave my information,” said another Vienna employee. “I didn’t leave a message because I thought it was supposed to be anonymous."

The employee told the MCR that ensuring all prison employees were properly trained on ethics reform in a timely manner was a priority at the prison, to the extent that one worker on medical leave was called in specifically to take the ethics test.

"The officer had to be called back in to take the test because the people in Springfield (Department of Corrections) wanted it done right away," said the Vienna employee. "They paid him in comp time to come in for the test."

Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said that distributing campaign literature on state property to employees during the workday is a clear ethics violation.

“That’s the kind of thing this (ethics) bill was getting at,” Canary said. “State employees or prison workers have every right to engage in political activity but not in the workplace on state time.”

“Whether it was inadvertent or not, going into the workplace and handing out literature is exactly the kind of thing ethics reform was designed to change,” she said. “I’ll cut judges some slack because they’re not intimately aware of every law on the books. But you would think that someone on campaign staff in particular would be aware of the law."

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Illinois Department of Corrections Illinois General Assembly Illinois Supreme Court

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