By Melissa Leu Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn may want to shake his Magic 8-Ball again, because the outlook may be hazy for who will be appointed next to the state’s Prisoner Review Board.
Former state Rep. Careen Gordon withdrew her nomination Wednesday for a job that pays $85,886 annually. Quinn nominated her in January, but her appointment had been tied up in the Senate Executive Appointments committee amidst Republican objections.
"Thank you so much for the honor of your nomination to the Prisoner Review Board. I request that my name be withdrawn as a member of the Prisoner Review Board. It has been an honor to serve on this board," Gordon said in a written statement to Quinn.
“The bottom line continues to be she was chosen by the governor because of her background as a legislator and a prosecutor. She has spent her entire career giving victims of crime a voice, being an advocate and for her work trying to toughen penalties for violent criminals,” said Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson.
Her nomination was set to expire in January 2015.
Gordon, who represented the 75th House District — which includes Grundy, Will, Iroquois, Livingston, LaSalle and parts of Kankakee counties — lost her election in November. Republicans said Quinn’s nomination seemed suspect, especially after Gordon's vote for a historic 67-percent personal income tax increase during the lame-duck session.
“(The public) feel(s) like there is this linkage behind her getting her appointment and her vote on a tax (increase),” said Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Peru, who took over Gordon’s position in the House before being appointed to the Senate.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, who serves on the Executive Appointments committee, expected to have a fair hearing before the announcement was made. She said she believes Gordon’s previous experience as a criminal prosecutor would have made her a worthy candidate.
“I believe (the questions have) nothing to do with her merit in being assigned to this position. Whatever happened in her campaign, I don't know that to be true or not true,” Lightford said.
Before becoming a lawmaker, Gordon worked in the State’s Attorney office in Grundy, Kankakee, and Will counties, and served as an Illinois assistant attorney general in 2000.
Despite her qualifications, Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, who took over Gordon's seat, didn’t approve of the way the former lawmaker went about finding her next job.
“The manner in which she was appointed — or at least the perception of the manner in which she was appointed — in my district caused a lot of ill feelings, only because she campaigned on one thing and flipped on her way out,” Roth said.
The tax increase passed by one vote in both the House and Senate.
To avoid similar controversies in the future, Roth is pushing House Bill 246, a proposal that will require a two-year cooling-off period before a governor can appoint a former legislator.
“Illinois is trying to be calm and have the perception of being transparent and very above board, but it's things like this that really hurt the integrity of what we're trying to accomplish by being an ethical state,” Roth said.
The governor will be looking into finding Gordon's replacement, Thompson said.