The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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May 12, 2014

State hires' political connections

CHICAGO — Here are examples of state employees with political connections who were hired at the Illinois Department of Transportation under Gov. Pat Quinn.

An Associated Press review of emails and other state documents shows that dozens of government jobs involved in a dispute over whether they should be free of politics were filled with candidates who were politically involved or gave campaign money to the governor's party. The administration says the jobs should be exempt from a court ruling banning political hires because they are policy-making positions.

. Kathleen Vehovic is the daughter of former Sangamon County Democratic party chairman Todd Renfrow.

Vehovic was hired to a $39,000-a-year post after holding a temporary position that was "continually renewed" on a 60-day emergency basis, according to the emails. One email said Vehovic was "critical" to bureau operations because she coordinates pre-employment screening for snow removal and highway maintenance workers.

Anti-patronage activist Michael Shakman, who has challenged the hiring in federal court, said the job "obviously" should not have been exempt from state hiring rules. Vehovic did not respond to requests for comment left by phone and during a visit to her home.

. Doris Bartolotti, of Benton, is listed as the chair of the Franklin County Democratic Committee in an online county directory. Her husband and brother-in-law are county committeemen. State records show her son — who is mayor of a small southern Illinois community — has worked for IDOT since 2004.

Reached at her home, Doris Bartolotti — who made about $49,000 at IDOT in 2013 — said she would be happy to discuss her employment but needed to talk with her boss first. She later could not be reached.

. Nick Lay of Johnson County is a former county Democratic committeeman. He's listed as a technical manager IV and made $64,400 last year. When reached, he referred the AP to IDOT for comment.

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