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July 30, 2014

Illinois needs strong, ethical leadership

Illinois, known for its ethical shortcomings, needs leaders who can help reform the state's reputation. But two top managers for the Illinois State Fair were followers -- the kind of people who justify bad decisions by saying, "Everyone does it."

State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick took at least 120 beer tickets from a vendor last year, according to an Illinois Executive Inspector General report. Former Du Quoin State Fair Manager John Rednour took 1,000 to 2,000 beer tickets from the fair's beer vendor in 2012.

Rednour still doesn't see anything wrong with what he did. He told The Associated Press that this was "something that had been done for years," and apparently in his mind that made it OK.

However, Rednour and Bliefnick learned in training that state law prohibits government employees from soliciting or accepting gifts from companies seeking or doing business with the state, which is a sensible safeguard. A vendor might think that giving out tickets -- worth $4,000 to $8,000 in Rednour's case -- was part of the cost of keeping the contract. He might expect something in return. It makes sense to avoid this sort of thing regardless of past practices.

Rednour left government earlier this year, thank goodness, but Bliefnick remains. The Executive Ethics Commission gave her just a $1,000 fine and two-day suspension.

Clearly, Illinois still hasn't fully figured out the importance of ethical leadership.

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