By Karen Chadra, Elmhurst Patch Editor
How does a former street gang member with an extensive criminal record get placed into multiple high-paying government jobs that allow him access to sensitive information?
That's what a group of Illinois Republican lawmakers want to find out. Whether by clout or incompetence, it can't happen again, they say.
State Reps. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), John Anthony (R-Morris) and Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) are outraged that Xandrian McCraven, a former Chicago gang member with more than 24 arrests and falsified job qualifications spanning multiple state agencies, has been hired by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The legislators are looking into a possible investigation of the apparent "gross lapses in employment standards" within the Illinois Department of Corrections, according to a press statement from the legislators.
“There’s been a clear breakdown in the system involving what at best could be described as incompetence and at worst as the clout-induced, high-cost shuffling of an unqualified, former gang member,” Reboletti said.
“This situation is appalling at so many levels, but the one I’m most concerned with is the threat to public safety imposed by a former gang member working on the inside of the Illinois Department of Corrections. While I believe the situation in its entirety must be examined, this in particular must be addressed immediately.”
Extensive Criminal Past
The situation was detailed in recent weeks in an investigative report by the Chicago Sun-Times. McCraven was a Chicago gang member "with political ties," according to the report, and was found to have bounced between several high paying jobs with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was hired repeatedly despite major problems with his background, including more than 24 arrests and three convictions ranging from illegal handgun possession to disorderly conduct.
Most recently, McCraven was employed as a senior advisor to the IDOC Chief of Parole at a salary of $111,432 a year. Like Reboletti, Rep. Anthony, a former police officer, was questioning how a former gang member with such a record was given so many chances at high paying positions within the IDOC.
“We need to ensure that in the future there are clear parameters for employment in these agencies with access to not only the law enforcement system, but also sensitive data,” Anthony said. “There’s clearly more to this story, but as someone with a law enforcement background who has worked as a gang officer in the past, I know the reach of these street gangs. I can very easily see this as an opportunity, using positions in these agencies as a potential source for information and even recruiting.”
Reboletti and Anthony are seeking legislation aimed at barring gang members from employment by state law enforcement agencies and agencies that supervise children. Under their proposal, a person who is documented to have been a member of a criminal gang would be prohibited from employment by Illinois Department of Corrections, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
For the prohibition to apply, there would have to be documented evidence that he or she was a member of a criminal street gang, including a gang-related conviction of a gang-related offense or finding of fact by a court, and would apply to all hiring by agencies, including unionized and political hires.
Similarly, Ives is looking to address the situation in a broader sense with a proposal prohibiting a person with two or more criminal convictions from holding employment with the State of Illinois.
“I think the taxpayers of Illinois are fed up with these types of stories,” Ives said. “To have a politically connected employee bounce between agencies collecting a high level salary with this type of record, all the while apparently falsifying qualifications, is just not acceptable. And to have been repeatedly ‘placed’ into positions just leaves you asking more questions.”
Under her proposal, a person who has been convicted two or more times of criminal offenses, including a felony, class A misdemeanor or a DUI, would be ineligible to be employed in any position by the State of Illinois. While it would exempt certain traffic violations and smaller class misdemeanors, the prohibition would apply prospectively to all state hiring, including unionized, political, legislative and judicial employees.
All three lawmakers will explore the option of calling for legislative hearings into exactly how this individual was able to repeatedly obtain these positions despite being relieved from his duties at each assignment.