Hopes Run High for $20M Phenix City Development

State Ethics Law Waives Charges Against Secretary

Sun May 06, 2007 - Midwest Edition
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CHICAGO (AP) When the state’s former transportation secretary stepped down, he immediately took a job with a company that had gotten $50 million in contracts on his watch, according to a published report.

Timothy Martin became vice president of Consoer, Townsend & Associates, a Chicago-based road construction contractor, on Jan. 29, three days after he left the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Tribune reported recently. But Martin did so only after being granted a waiver from a law that prohibits such moves.

As transportation secretary, a post he held for approximately four years, Martin approved major road-building and transit contracts, including the deals with Consoer Townsend, a subsidiary of AECOM/CTE, known as CTE.

State employees must wait a year before starting private-sector jobs in industries they once did business with or oversaw, a “revolving-door” provision that is part of an ethics law supported by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission granted Martin a waiver from the provision in December 2006, with the condition that he not solicit work from IDOT or lobby the agency for two years.

Martin started at IDOT in February 2003 and earned approximately $128,000 annually. He oversaw the agency’s $10 billion annual highway improvement program.

He told the ethics commission that he began looking for a private-sector job last November and issued a memo removing himself from signing any contracts with firms he was talking to about possible employment, the Tribune reported.

Martin would have violated state law if he hadn’t issued the memo, the commission determined, saying he previously was “personally and substantially involved in the decision to award contracts to his prospective employer.”

A watchdog group was critical of the move.

“Martin’s action buttresses the public’s suspicion that public servants are always looking out for their next career move,” said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. “Maybe this was all on the up and up, but it looks horrible.”

But Martin, an engineer, said IDOT has contracts with almost every large engineering firm in Illinois, and any move to the private sector would have looked like a conflict of interest.

“The reality is that if I only looked at companies that didn’t have contracts with IDOT, I’d probably be limited to working for a bank,” Martin told the Tribune. “I don’t want to leave state government and become a bank teller.”

Martin and Blagojevich’s office did not immediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press. An IDOT spokesman declined comment.