Comments from the Chair
How did the end of my one year term arrive so soon? I should feel a sense of relief, and there is a bit of that, but as with so many life experiences, the feelings are definitely mixed, with sadness yet also a sense of joy recalling great discussions and good laughs with fellow Committee members all sharing the stage. And I am ready, or at least must be by June 20, to accept the oh-so-glamorous mantle of ‘Ex-Officio’ bestowed upon dearly departed chairs and to move aside to welcome Eileen Geary as the incoming Chair, along with Pablo Eves as her Vice-Chair and Kevin Lovellette joining the leadership line-up as Secretary? Until June 20, and beginning now as I write this set of comments, I will periodically reflect upon this past year and wonder what impact our accomplishments have had and will have upon our colleagues, the Association and the profession in general—and will do so in the hope that we are making a difference for the good.
Here, I will take the time to recount what we’ve done and how our Committee members have contributed to fulfilling our mission and goals and, like in the Reality-TV shows where the public calls in or ‘tweets’ its votes or ‘likes’ you on Facebook, you can be the judge of the value of our efforts. Out of the box, we weighed in on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act pending before our General Assembly, voting almost unanimously, and with great pride, to support that bill. We thank Marylou Louder Kent as our Legislative Subcommittee Chair for the comprehensive report on our position that she submitted to Jim Covington and for her regular reports on pending bills.
On the newsletter front, Kate Kelly and Lynn Patton, our stalwart and dedicated co-editors of The Public Servant, never missed a beat in their publication schedule, even when Kate was dancing to the beat of the CBA’s Christmas Spirits and Lynn was dancing through her many roles at the AG’s Office. Moreover, the quality of our newsletter subjects and the writing continues to register at the top of the scale. With support this next term from Tiffany Elking, this unbeatable team will stay on board so you can look forward to more great reading about the lives, loves and daily legal conundrums of government lawyers. During this term, we have enjoyed the excellent articles by our members, the Hon. Steven Nordquist, Tom Ciecko, Matt Dionne, Pat Driscoll, Paul Thompson, Kevin and Marylou, and of course the informative updates on recently issued Opinions of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that Lynn Patton regularly provides. And I had the privilege of submitting a summary of my interview of Cook County Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard for a ‘Someone You Should Know’ segment, an undertaking that was inspired by Tom’s 2012 newsletter article analyzing the statutory duties and powers of an Executive Inspector General under the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and how they might impact those subject to investigation.
CLE AND CABLE TV PUBLIC SERVICE PROGRAMS
And now, do you hear the applause? It’s deafening, and it is in appreciation for our indefatigable CLE Coordinator Lisle Stalter and the cast and crew of the 2013 version of our annual “Ethics Extravaganza,” a professional responsibility program addressing the complex ethical challenges that lurk around every corner for lawyers employed by the State or a local government entity and for those who do business with government entities. Pat, Tom and I were grateful to get the ‘hot’ tickets to witness the wildly dramatic antics of Lynn, Kate, Kevin, Matt and Mary Milano who made full use of their props, including colorful boas, various styles of mustaches, sunglasses and caps, and stuffed animals to enact, in a delightfully comic way, realistic workplace scenarios. After each one, the insanely popular ARDC Ethics Guru Jim Grogan guided us through the application of PR Rules as we deconstructed the ethical issues confronting the characters portrayed by our colleagues. This kind of live, interactive and indelible learning makes me nostalgic for more of the same as we move ever faster toward replacing such CLE programming with remote electronic learning.
And yet…we ourselves presented one of those two-hour recorded panel programs—on The Illinois Legislative Process, featuring Rep. Louis Lang, Deputy Majority Leader, and Tiffany Elking who previously served as Assistant Counsel to Rep. Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House. Marylou, who is comfortable in the legislative arena, ably moderated. So there is after all a place in our CLE lexicon for excellent quality electronic programs, and this one serves as a shining example of how well that mode of delivery can work. Kudos are again in order for Lisle who worked closely with Tiffany and Marylou to bring this idea to life.
Finally, as promised, we delivered a highly informative two-part Cable TV program on Access to Affordable Housing and Tenant Rights. Photos of the panel participants appear in this issue so you can see what great talent looks like! This “show” was our second in an ongoing series of public service programming for Cable TV that we are co-sponsoring with the Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Stay tuned for our next offering that will focus on Child Support. It is intended to reach parents who desperately need help navigating the sometimes confusing paths to the government agencies that will explain child support orders and assist them in collecting payments from obligors. Thanks to Kate, Pablo, and Karen Dimond for contributing to this proposal which we hope to tape in the late summer or early fall. Please be sure to visit our Committee link on the ISBA website where you can access the YouTube videos of our law-related public service programs:
FUTURE CLE PROGRAMMING
One of our future CLE programs will cover a topic we expect will be of interest and benefit to government lawyers and to defense and labor and employment law attorneys: “The Role and Reach of Independent Inspectors General.” It is proposed as a two-hour studio presentation by a panel of IIGs who serve or previously served their government offices in that capacity. We recognize and respect their mission to ferret out political harassment, violations of workplace rules and anti-discrimination laws and even criminal misconduct, but it is important to also explore questions about their authority. How extensive are their investigative and disciplinary powers and what controls on those powers are appropriate? Whose interests are being served? What rights are available to subjects of investigation and potential discipline, or to complainants and witnesses, and how important is it for those individuals to obtain legal counsel? Stay tuned for notice of the probable fall recording of this examination of governmental powers. For their invaluable support in the development of the program, I thank Paul Thompson, Justin Leinenweber, Pat, Tiffany, Pablo and Matt, as well as the incomparable and constant provocateur Mary Milano for her raising important issues about the rights of subjects that should be addressed. Special thanks are due again to Tom whose newsletter article on the statutory provisions creating such positions was an impetus for us to address the subject.
THE END… (or close)
Now at last we reach the end of my extensive comments but I must leave room to bid a very fond adieu to Janet Sosin, the incredible woman who has been, since our Committee’s inception, the most effective, thoughtful and creative liaison to the ISBA staff, administration and leadership that we could have imagined. At our last meeting at the CRO on a Friday afternoon in March, our group surprised Janet with her husband David and a celebration of her long and successful service to us and to the entire ISBA membership, replete with heartfelt acknowledgments, a song from Kate, tasty treats and an appropriate token reflecting our appreciation of her devotion to our many causes. We hope it and the memories of that day will remind her of us through her many years of happy retirement. So, Janet, on behalf of our Committee…best wishes for a fulfilling journey through this next phase of your productive life.
We welcome Janet’s successor Rachel McDermott and will give her a “run for her money” as we continue lobbying for approval of the ISBA’s establishment of a new award, the Excellence in Government Service Award, in tribute to and in loving memory of Roz Kaplan, as well as approval for creating a discounted dues structure for government lawyers (as the ABA and numerous other states have done) to encourage more of us to join this great Association. We also hope that Board Liaison Sonni Williams returns to continue her support of our work.
The members of this hard-working committee represent a remarkably diverse range of government offices at the city, county, state and federal levels, including law enforcement, regulatory and administrative agencies, state constitutional offices and the state and federal courts, and everyone is deeply committed to public service both within his/her office and through their bar activities. Moreover, we keep teaching and learning from each other and are relentless in our efforts to inform our bar colleagues and communities throughout the state about our value to the profession and the public. I am honored to serve on this Committee and extend warm regards to each of my fellow members for a satisfying career, as well as annual raises and pension security beginning NOW (ha!). I am grateful to you all for making this a special year for me. ■