Bernard Schoenburg: Rep's brother loses state job
State Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield, the chief budget negotiator for Illinois House Democrats, hosted a Father’s Day get-together at his home. Among the family members who attended was his brother, Louis J. Hannig, who became a new dad through adoption in February.
Two days later, Louis Hannig called his brother to report that Louis had just been dismissed from his $53,940-a-year job at the Illinois Department of National Resources.
Louis Hannig, 45, of Springfield, got a four-year term appointment in DNR in 2003. When such an appointment expires, the administration can renew the appointment for another four years or not. Officials don’t need to give any reason if an employee is let go at that point.
“Tuesday (June 19) about 4 o’clock, our director of human resources, Michele Cusumano, came down to my office and informed me my term was not going to be renewed,” Louis Hannig said last week. “Her explanation was that the governor’s office, their policy was to eliminate the term positions. They don’t look favorably on term positions. … In cases where the position wasn’t a technical position, such as a lawyer or engineer … they weren’t going to renew.”
Hannig, who has a political science degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign, said he assumed the unsettled state budget and tight money at DNR also had something to do with the decision. But as for a policy of eliminating such jobs, he said, “My impression was other people had been renewed within the past year.”
Hannig had been told by the head of DNR’s office of administration, for which he oversaw the motor pool, a copy center that ships publications, and the mail room, that there would be no problem with his renewal.
“I got good performance reviews all the way through,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming.”
Hannig also said the acting director of DNR said the agency didn’t make the call.
“Director (Sam) Flood told me that it …wasn’t their decision not to renew. It was the governor’s office.”
Asked if he thought his situation was the result of anything personal from the governor’s office regarding him or his brother, Louis Hannig said, “They told me it was policy, so I’ve got to believe it’s policy.”
That’s also the word from Rebecca Rausch, spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“This is certainly not specific to the person who held the appointment,” Rausch said. “We are evaluating term appointments. … Dozens of them across the board have not been renewed.”
She said she believes Louis Hannig’s position will not be filled.
Gary Hannig is one of the relatively few non-governor’s office people who actually get to see the governor regularly in Springfield because he participates in budget negotiations. I asked Rep. Hannig if he thought he should have been given the courtesy of notification of the personnel move from the governor’s office.
“They have the ability to run state government as they wish,” Hannig said. “I understand that they make calls every day that are going to upset legislators. And we probably do things that irritate the governor. … We try to work through those and recognize that probably in the long run, we’re all better served if we try to work together.”
When he did ask about the dismissal, Rep. Hannig said, “they told me that … they are upgrading the term appointments and limiting them to people with professional-type qualifications.”
Rep. Hannig did confirm that he sought a state job for his brother back in 2003. Louis Hannig formerly worked for State Farm and earlier for a family insurance and real estate business.
Louis Hannig said he heard Friday that he’s been approved to receive unemployment insurance - “a first for me.” He also said his wife, Julie Armitage, who is taking family leave because of the arrival of 3-year-old Nicholas from Ukraine in February, had her four-year term renewed a few months back and will return to work soon.
Armitage, 44, began working for the state out of law school in 1988. She is managing attorney of a unit in the legal office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her salary is $83,592 annually.
Gary Hannig has other relatives who work for the state. His wife, Betsy, makes $58,557 annually at the Teachers’ Retirement System, where she began in late 1996. Brother Terry Hannig, 52, of Springfield, makes $52,068 annually with the secretary of state. He has been with the state since 1989. And Terry’s wife, Kathi, 50, makes $58,152 annually with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. She’s worked for the state since 1978.
Gary Hannig is paid $74,429 annually, including his base salary of $57,619 and a leadership stipend of $16,810.
Hannig doesn’t think he’s strayed from the governor’s agenda. He said his voting record mirrors that of state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, who is considered the governor’s spokesman on the floor.
Hannig did criticize the Blagojevich team last summer. He said he had been assured no money for stem-cell research was in the budget, only to find out later that Blagojevich decided to direct $5 million to that purpose from a generic administrative line.
But Rausch said the dismissal of Louis Hannig was “absolutely not” linked in any way to his brother.
“He’s a valuable member of the General Assembly,” Rausch said of Rep. Hannig. “He’s been there for a long time. He’s very knowledgeable.”
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has once again proved that he’s a good GOP team player in Congress - especially on the baseball diamond.
Shimkus was the starting pitcher for Republicans Monday night in the 46th annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball game at RFK Stadium. He pitched a complete seven-inning game, allowing five hits and two walks. He struck out four. Democrats helped by making nine errors, the Roll Call story noted.
The GOP won 5-2. Shimkus was named co-MVP, along with Rep. Charles “Chip” Pickering Jr., R-Miss. It was his third MVP award.
Shimkus wore a Shawnee Community College jersey this year. The college is near Ullin.
Proceeds from the game -- estimated at between $75,000 and $100,000 in a local publication -- went to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Literacy Council.