June 2, 2017

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Illinois, Latest News

Governor Rauner Refuses To Admit Sheldon Was Wrong For DCFS Job

Rauner Repeatedly Praised Sheldon In Past and Admitted He Did Not Ask Sheldon To Resign

On WBEZ’s Morning Shift, Governor Bruce Rauner repeatedly refused to admit that George Sheldon was the wrong choice to head the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Sheldon stepped down this week amid a deepening scandal over the department’s management and the tragic death of Semaj Crosby.

WBEZ: What about the reports that DCFS was giving gift cards to employees to close out cases, are you investigating what’s wrong with that?

RAUNER: We are investigating everything.  Everything at every level.

WBEZ: So again, was he the wrong guy for the job? 

RAUNER: Well, we’ve got to fix the system.  George was here for two years, and he tried to fix it.  And we just we can never give up.  We’ve got to bring talented people in who are going to improve our systems to help our most vulnerable kids.  It’s the most important work we can do.

On his appointment in 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner said George Sheldon was the “best of the best.” A year later, Rauner repeatedly praised Sheldon’s work for leading an “impressive transformation” at the agency.

But Sheldon’s record tells a different story. Sheldon’s agency came under investigation for crony hires and handing out contracts to friends, and most recently it was discovered that DCFS “awarded” $100 gift cards to DCFS investigators that “closed the most cases in a month.” In the case of Semaj Crosby, DCFS personnel had contact with her family 16 times last year but the state still allowed Crosby to remain in the home.

“Bruce Rauner needs to come clean on why the Department of Children and Family Services was mismanaged on his watch,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “But today, Governor Rauner chose to bury his head in the sand and defend his hand-picked appointee, George Sheldon. Bruce Rauner has to own his administration’s failures, and explain why he did not act to remove George Sheldon or intervene in the department.”

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Transcript from this morning’s interview on WBEZ (listen here): 

WBEZ: So, speaking of social services, I want to talk a little bit about the Department of Children and Family Services, DCFS.  Two and a half years ago, you brought in George Sheldon, who we had on this show.  I believe you called him an all-star.  He resigned this week amid controversy, some having to do with contracts benefitting associates, was he the wrong guy for this job? 

GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER: Well, first of all, let me say we need to provide the proper support for our most vulnerable children.  We have so many children growing up in abject poverty, it breaks my heart.  And many of them come from broken families with abusive adults in the household.  Very important that we do everything we can to support our vulnerable children.  It’s very difficult work, very challenging and unfortunately our Department of Children and Family Services has been a failing bureaucracy with unmanageable work rules and contracts and restrictions in terms of law of what they can and can’t do that ties their hands, it’s a very broken system.  George came in, he was a star in the Obama administration, he’s a Democrat, he was a star in the Florida government.  I believe he did everything he could, he was heavily recruited, I did not ask him to leave or force him out, he accepted another position.  He was extremely frustrated trying to make changes.  There are investigations ongoing right now, I support those.  We are trying to understand exactly what’s been happening down at the levels of the department of children and family services, we need to make all the improvements we can, we need to help our most vulnerable kids.

WBEZ: What about the reports that DCFS was giving gift cards to employees to close out cases, are you investigating what’s wrong with that?

RAUNER: We are investigating everything.  Everything at every level.

WBEZ: So again, was he the wrong guy for the job? 

RAUNER: Well, we’ve got to fix the system.  George was here for two years, and he tried to fix it.  And we just we can never give up.  We’ve got to bring talented people in who are going to improve our systems to help our most vulnerable kids.  It’s the most important work we can do.