DOUG FINKE: What's the governor thinking?

Doug Finke

*What’s he thinking? Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, that is.

As you know, Blagojevich filed suit against House Clerk MARK MAHONEY because Mahoney didn’t record Blagojevich’s budget cuts in the House record on Sept. 4. He wanted a court order directing Mahoney to enter the cuts retroactive to that day.

The case went to Sangamon County Circuit Judge PATRICK KELLEY. Kelley met with the attorneys from both sides Monday and suggested a resolution that would have kept the case out of a court hearing and allowed everyone to save face. He suggested the House record the cuts as of Monday, which would give the House time to act on overrides when it returns for the veto session in early October. The House agreed, but Blagojevich’s lawyers pressed for the hearing. They got it. They lost. Goodbye, face.

Naturally, Blagojevich’s lawyers claimed success because the cuts got recorded. That was all they wanted, they said. Yeah, sure. If that was the case, why push for a hearing after the cuts were recorded? Maybe it was because if Blagojevich had won, the House could not vote to restore the cut money. For the record, Blagojevich’s lawyers denied they were trying to block a House override of the budget cuts.

In summation, what started as yet another silly feud between Blagojevich and House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, could have been resolved in a reasonable manner. The unreasonable Blagojevich administration refused and had its collective hat handed to it.

*Kelley, by the way, had some advice for the attorneys on both sides of the case.

After praising their legal abilities, Kelley added, “I wish you could spend time doing things that are more fruitful.”

Lawyers should always listen to a judge’s suggestions.

*Continuing its dazzling record in court, the Blagojevich administration decided not to continue legal action against DAWN DEFRATIES and MICHAEL CASEY, the designated scapegoats for corruption in the administration.

They were fired with much fanfare, the bold governor rooting out corruption (in this case allegedly illegal hiring practices) and saving the state. They went to the Civil Service Commission to get their jobs back. As testimony unfolded over several weeks, it became obvious just how weak the case against them was. An administrative law judge said the facts justified a short suspension, not firing.

The Civil Service Commission essentially wanted to drag the case out indefinitely, which meant DeFraties and Casey could not return to work. DeFraties and Casey went to court to get their jobs back and won. The administration has now decided not to push it further.

Isn’t that typical of the Blagojevich operation? Do inadequate preparation, make a flashy announcement, let things founder and finally die. But it’s one thing to do it with book of the month club for kids (remember that one?) and quite another to do it with people’s lives.

Incidentally, the judge who ruled in favor of Defraties and Casey was Kelley. No Blagojevich Christmas card for him.

*There’s still one more of Blagojevich’s lawsuits pending. This is the one in which Blagojevich wants the courts to say he gets to set both the date and time of special sessions. Madigan thinks otherwise, which is what got him sued by the governor.

Last week, House Minority Leader TOM CROSS, R-Oswego, quietly filed papers to get involved in the lawsuit as an ally of Madigan. Cross argued that any decision made affecting Madigan also affects the Republicans.

“The Minority Leader needs to assure the minority members that the legislative body of which they have been elected operates in accordance with the Illinois Constitution and the Rules adopted by the Illinois House of Representatives free from unreasonable interference by the arbitrary and capricious use of a power in an unreasonable manner so as to attempt to invade the power of the House to govern itself,” the filing states. That’s a legal way of saying the GOP thinks Blagojevich is being abusive and ought to butt out.

Cross is being represented by former Republican Rep. JOHN COUNTRYMAN. Cross spokesman DAVID DRING said Countryman is doing the work for free. Dring added that Cross wants to see Madigan win so that when Republicans win control of the House and Cross is elected speaker, he will not have to face similar questions about special sessions.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.