Ives takes union to task over Juvenile Justice worker's PAC fundraising
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) doesn't think the punishment fits the crime in the case of James Winburn, an employee of the state Department of Juvenile Justice who was fined $1,000 for soliciting political contributions to a public employee union-funded political action committee recently.
The real culprit in the case, she told the DuPage Policy Journal, is the union.
"This case highlights the bullying tactics of the unions and the repeated intimidation they use at the job site on employees,” Ives said. “I think a fine, in this case, amounts to a slap on the wrist. In reading the details of the complaint, it is obvious that this union representative knew his actions were a violation of the ethics law since nearly half his time at work was spent doing union business, so he had some training."
Winburn admitted to investigators from the Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) that he asked his co-workers for donations to the local efforts of PEOPLE, a political action committee for the national American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
"Additionally, the card he was attempting to have the employee sign giving the union authorization to withhold money from his paycheck for a PAC clearly states that the PAC is for the purpose of making political contributions," Ives said. "A harsher punishment should have been given in order to ensure this doesn't happen again."
Ives, however, saved her harshest criticism for the union.
“I would add that this investigation should not have taken over a year as it did,” Ives said. “It just goes to show you that the unions will litigate and stall against every adverse action. I applaud the employee for reporting this intimidation by the union and for filing a complaint through the OEIG."
Attempts to reach AFSCME representatives for comment were unsuccessful by press time.
Nathaniel Hamilton, the communications director for the Chicago-based Project Six, a government watchdog organization, said that the case is an unfortunate event.
"Cases like this – especially cases where political donations or solicitations are involved – show just how important good oversight is for government agencies at every level," he said to the Journal. "Public service should not be partisan or have a donation required to take part."
According to the report documenting the OEIG’s investigation, Winburn willingly violated state ethics rules by conducting political activity on state time.
State law says “contributions shall not be intentionally solicited, accepted, offered or made on state property by public officials, by state employees, by candidates for elective office, by person required to be registered under the Lobbyist Registration Act, or by any officers, employees, or agents of any political organization… .”
Based on publicly available data on state employees and their wages, Winburn remains employed by the Department of Juvenile Justice and earns an annual salary of approximately $64,000 as a juvenile justice specialist.