State official baffled: Why didn't IDNR fire Scott Flood?

News-DemocratJuly 18, 2011 

Illinois' executive inspector general says he can't understand why the Department of Natural Resources didn't fire manager Scott Flood before allowing him to become vested for a state pension.

Ricardo Meza, executive inspector general for the agencies of the governor, said in an interview with the News-Democrat that his office conducted an airtight investigation into Flood, a Belleville resident with political connections.

"There were no questions," Meza said.

The investigation by Meza's office found that Flood slept on the job, arrived for work late and left early, misused his state cell phone and truck, and had outside employment without state permission.

Flood's attorney, Carl Draper, has said the inspector general's report has "multiple errors."

Meza's office turned its findings over to IDNR in January, with a recommendation that Flood be fired.

The IDNR, in a response dated Jan. 25, said it planned to fire Flood.

But an agreement between IDNR and Flood, dated May 10, states that Flood would be allowed to resign and would be put on administrative leave with pay until July 15, "to allow employee to vest with the State Employee Retirement System."

Draper, and IDNR's chief of staff, Jay Curtis, say the pension isn't really an issue, because Flood became vested on May 5, five days before the resignation agreement was signed.

Curtis said negotiations were conducted between IDNR and Flood's attorney from January through May. He said Flood and his attorney at first would accept only a five-day suspension. Curtis said Flood and his attorney were prepared to litigate the issue, which could have cost the state "potentially millions of dollars."

Meza said IDNR officials didn't give him any information on why they went along with the resignation agreement.

"We were a little confused about why a state agency would allow an employee -- who was found to be engaged in misconduct, and they agreed it was someone they should terminate -- why they would allow that employee to remain on the job and become vested," Meza said. "I don't understand."

Flood was a regional manager for IDNR, overseeing all state parks and IDNR properties in western Illinois, with a salary of about $70,000. He is the son of former IDNR Director Sam Flood, a longtime Democratic politician in St. Clair County.

The inspector general's report shows that the inspector general's investigators had Flood under surveillance as early as July 2009.

"We believe everything we found ... was based on objective information," Meza said.

As for why the investigation wasn't completed until January, Meza said his office had a backlog of 256 open investigations when he was appointed in September 2010. His office has chipped away at the backlog, whittling it down to 109 open cases.

"One of the first things I did was to speak to the staff about the importance of conducting thorough, objective and timely investigations," Meza said. "I immediately began taking action to close investigations that were completed."

Sam Flood, a former county clerk of St. Clair County, was appointed IDNR interim director in 2005 by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and served in the position until 2009. Flood at one time served as the downstate liaison for Blagojevich.

In 2008, federal investigators looking into possible hiring fraud in Blagojevich's administration asked for the personnel files of 14 people -- including Scott Flood.

Scott Flood was hired by IDNR in 2003 as a state park manager, after having served as the head of the maintenance department at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detection Center.

Scott Flood can begin collecting his state pension at age 60. The amount of his pension is unclear, but based on rough calculations involving his length of service, he would receive about 13.5 percent of his salary. State retirees also typically get a cost-of-living increase in their pension every year.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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