Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fitzgerald goes after Illinois Governor Blagojevich admin.

Nation: Er... Merry Fitzmas Gov?

Federal authorities have uncovered evidence implicating multiple state agencies in their investigation into "allegations of endemic hiring fraud" in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said in a letter made public Friday. Investigators have "developed a number of credible witnesses," Fitzgerald wrote in a June 20 letter to Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan. The letter provided the clearest explanation to date of the yearlong federal investigation into allegations that the Democratic administration rigged employment practices in violation of state law restricting political hiring. Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said in a statement that the administration hired "some bad apples who violated rules" after it took office in January 2003. But, she said, "The systems we put in place in our first year helped ferret out this wrongdoing." She said Blagojevich's creation of an inspector general's office has led in some cases to people being fired and, when appropriate, referral to federal prosecutors. Fitzgerald's revelations about the federal investigation into state hiring came in a letter to Madigan thanking her for turning over her office's investigation on hiring to federal authorities. The letter represented both Fitzgerald's first public comments on the matter and the first official disclosure of the attorney general's hiring investigation. No charges have been filed in the hiring investigation. But the letter carries severe political overtones for Blagojevich, the first Democrat elected governor in 26 years, who rode to office on a populist theme of reform but who finds his bid for re-election in November clouded by scandal. Fitzgerald's letter said federal investigators originally began investigating "allegations of fraudulent hiring practices" about a year ago and opened a second investigation "late last summer."

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