‘Starting from ground zero:’ New legislative watchdog moves into empty office
New Legislative Inspector General Michael McCuskey stands in an empty office. He was appointed to the position last week, but he did not inherit any staff. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Beth Hundsdorfer)
McCuskey inherited no staff from outgoing inspector general
By BETH HUNDSDORFER
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – When Michael McCuskey walked into his new office at the Stratton Building that overlooks the Illinois State Capitol which he is charged with investigating, he had two complaints in his inbox, some empty desks and no staff.
“I’ve got nothing. No staff. No investigator. No nothing,” McCuskey said Wednesday in an interview with Capitol News Illinois.
The new legislative inspector general is primarily tasked with investigating complaints, violations, abuse of authority or other forms of misconduct by members of the General Assembly and the employees who work for them.
He’ll have a budget of $920,000 to fill out a staff that currently has a head count of zero. Those working for former LIG Carol Pope vacated the office when she did earlier this year.
McCuskey was appointed by lawmakers last week to serve the balance of Pope’s unfulfilled term. That ends on June 30, 2023 – McCuskey’s 74th birthday.
Pope called the office a “paper tiger.”
McCuskey said he needs the essentials, like someone to answer the phone, before he can surmise how to improve the technical workings of the office.
“I keep telling the press come back next year just before it becomes retention time or retirement time and ask me,” McCuskey said. “How would I know how the job is going to function when I don’t even have staff? I don’t have an investigator. I am starting from ground zero. Absolutely.”
Before she vacated the office, Pope blasted lawmakers, saying they demonstrated “true ethics reform is not a priority.” She resigned in July and said her last day would be Dec. 16, but she delayed her departure into early January to allow more time for her position to be filled.
“Basically, nobody’s been here since end of December,” McCuskey said.
McCuskey doesn’t blame Pope, he said. If lawmakers would have filled the vacancy more quickly, Pope’s staff might have chosen to stay on board, he added.
McCuskey said he’s spoken with Pope and former inspector general Tom Homer and sought their advice.
When he faces lawmakers to make his budget request in the coming days, he said, he’ll state his intent to hire an investigator and seek to determine whether the office is up to date on its bills.
McCuskey has his own hiring authority, so filling in staff should go faster than typical state employment hiring.
One of the first positions on his list of new hires will be a secretary, he said.
Because McCuskey doesn’t type.
If anyone asks about the status of the two complaints pending in McCuskey’s office, he said, he may have to respond in a written longhand letter.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.