Members of the House Appropriations Human Services Committee met with an official of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration on June 4 about why a staffer in the governor's office is being paid out of the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget.
Richard Goldberg, Rauner's deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, appeared before the committee at the Capitol in Springfield in order to explain the source of the salary of Beth Purvis, who Rauner hired to be his secretary of education.
Committee Chair Greg Harris, D-Chicago, opened by saying that the hearing was about transparency, and noted that she was hired just a few weeks before what has been called the "Good Friday Massacre," wherein Rauner's administration attempted to axe about $26 million in spending from the FY 2015 budget.
But Goldberg called the hearing a sham, characterizing Purvis as "one of the most accomplished women I've ever met in my life … Governor Rauner hired a superstar to be in his cabinet." He added that childhood developmentone of Purvis' areas of expertisedoes fall under many of the areas that the DHS administers.
Goldberg also said that paying Purvis out of a different department's budgeta practice known as "off-shoring"has been a standard practice in previous administrations and reminded the committee that she made less than male staffers who work for state Democratic leaders.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, took umbrage with the insinuation of sexism.
"Making this a gender issue is inappropriate," Feigenholtz said. "I think the Democratic Party has shown great deference to women, and I stand tall with that. …We defend this budget. We have a right to ask questions"
State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Northlake, added, "I take offense that that you think this is a gender issue. … [Purvis'] resume speaks for itself. We're questioning why it's in this budget."
She further asked whether Purvis would be willing to speak before the committee since it, in effect, funds her pay. Goldberg said that she would meet with individual members but would appear before the committee under circumstances similar to this one.
The hearing got tumultuous in several moments, as Goldberg made repeated reference to the Democrats' "$4 billion, out-of-whack budget."
State Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, told Goldberg, "You keep going around in circles. The only sham is the answers you're giving us. I'm not a child who will be chastised by the governor's office."
State Rep. Patricia Bell, R-Westmont, suggested the salary was ultimately an appropriate expenditure, since the Committee did oversee childcare grants, childcare services and schools for the blind and deaf, among other issues.
State Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, who is not a committee member but was acting as a substitute in the hearing, called the proceedings a "kangaroo court," adding, "I find the tone, tenor and premise wasteful and offensive. There's been no genuine inquiry about why we're just discussing this now."
Goldberg also reiterated that Purvis' salary had been a matter of public record. But committee members did raise the question of how accessible the information actually was; the Chicago Sun-Times, which broke the story of Purvis' salary, reported that it had to go through a Freedom of Information Act filing. Harris asked that Goldberg next provide the committee with a list of staffers from the governor's office whose salary is paid for by other departments.