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Government Lawyers NewsletterThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers

November 2003, vol. 5, no. 2

News you can use: Ethics bill update

On August 26, 2003, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich filed his long-anticipated amendatory veto of House Bill 3412. House Bill 3412, among other things, creates the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and prohibits state officers and state employees of the executive and legislative branches of state government and the office of the Auditor General from engaging in political activities on state time.

Through the exercise of his amendatory veto, the Governor has proposed stronger ethics reform than that which was passed by the General Assembly. Among the Governor’s suggestions are the tightening of those laws addressing the receipt of gifts by government officers and employees and the creation of the office of Inspector General (See “General Assembly Passes Ethics Legislation, Governor Vetoes Ethics Bill,” Committee on Government Lawyers, August 2003, Vol.5, No.1 for a more complete summary of the Governor’s suggested changes). The General Assembly will reconvene November 4-6 and November 18-20, 2003 for veto session. At that time, the General Assembly will review all bills vetoed by the Governor, including House Bill 3412.

A copy of the Governor’s veto message may be found on the General Assembly’s Web site at <http://www. legis.state.il.us> under the full text link for House Bill 3412.

Ethics hotline and the office of the Inspector General

In furtherance of the changes he proposed in his amendatory veto of House Bill 3412, on September 10, 2003, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced the creation of a new ethics hotline and that the office of Inspector General is ready to respond to ethics inquiries and complaints of misconduct regarding government employees under his jurisdiction. The office of Inspector General is headed by former federal prosecutor Z. Scott. Currently, the function of the office of the Inspector General is to investigate fraud and abuse in state government by employees in agencies under the Governor’s control. Ethics complaints or inquiries can be made to the Inspector General’s office toll-free at 866-814-1113, or through the Web at: http://www.inspectorgeneral.il.gov/

The office of the Inspector General will investigate complaints of violations of any law, rule, regulation, abuse of authority or other forms of misconduct within the offices, boards and commissions that report to the Governor. Complaints received by the office of Inspector General are reviewed and evaluated to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the allegations, if true, would constitute a violation of any law, rule or regulation on the part of a state officer, agency, employee, or entity doing business with the State of Illinois. At the conclusion of an investigation opened by the office of Inspector General, the Inspector General will report findings and recommendations to the Governor and, where appropriate, to the agency director who manages the complained-of employee, contract or program for personnel action or corrective action. When appropriate, a report of investigation may also be forwarded to a prosecutor for review to determine whether the underlying facts are sufficient to support a criminal prosecution.

The office of the Inspector General will be establishing an ethics training program for all state employees under the Governor’s jurisdiction.

Should you desire to file a complaint, the office of the Inspector General may be contacted as follows:

Office of Inspector General

32 West Randolph Street

Suite 1300

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-5600 [Reception]

(866) 814-1113 [Hotline]

(312) 814-5479 [Fax]

The Governor’s amendatory veto of House Bill 3412 proposes an expanded office of the Inspector General for all state employees in the executive and legislative branches of state government, not only those agencies that report directly to the Governor. The General Assembly is expected to take action on the Governor’s amendatory veto during the November veto session.

Attorneys now have admission reciprocity in federal district courts throughout Illinois*

Each United States District Court in Illinois has now modified its local rules to allow a lawyer admitted to practice in one federal district court to be admitted in each of the other federal districts without requiring a personal appearance to do so. Lawyers in the past had to apply for admission and then appear personally before a designated judge in that U.S. District Court to take the oath of admission. The personal appearance is no longer a requirement if the lawyer has previously been admitted in another U.S. District Court in Illinois. All a previously admitted lawyer must do is file a motion seeking admission accompanied by a copy of the attorney’s Certificate of Admission to Practice from another U.S. District Court in Illinois and, of course, pay the requisite admission fee.

Judge Phil Gilbert of the Southern District of Illinois, a member of the ISBA’s Federal Practice Section Council, was the primary advocate for this change in the Illinois federal district courts to save lawyers time and money.

DOJ update

In past issues of the Committee on Government Lawyers newsletter, we have updated you on the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Department of Justice (“DOJ”) attorneys claiming that DOJ violated the Federal Employees Pay Act (“FEPA”) by refusing to compensate attorneys for overtime as required by FEPA. The Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs in 2002. DOJ argued that even though attorneys are covered by the FEPA, DOJ need not compensate them for overtime because DOJ neither authorized in advance nor approved after the fact any of the overtime hours. According to the pleadings, DOJ kept two sets of books, only one of which tracked the real number of overtime hours worked by attorneys. DOJ has now appealed the decision, on an interlocutory appeal, and briefing is complete. Oral argument is expected in either December, 2003 or January, 2004.

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*This information was originally published in the ISBA’s Federal Civil Practice newsletter, September 2003, Vol. 2, No. 1, and is reprinted with permission.

 

 


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