It’s the end of the road at the Illinois Department of Transportation for MIKE STOUT, who has managed to be involved in controversies from time to time while serving as director of the traffic safety division since 2004.

It’s the end of the road at the Illinois Department of Transportation for MIKE STOUT, who has managed to be involved in controversies from time to time while serving as director of the traffic safety division since 2004.

“Michael Stout has resigned as director of the department’s traffic safety division, effective Dec. 31,” said GUY TRIDGELL, spokesman for IDOT. “A replacement has not been named at this time.”

No further word was forthcoming about Stout from IDOT.  Stout did send co-workers a note last week, saying he has accepted a job outside state government and starts Jan. 1.

Since 2002, Stout, 57, has been business manager of Local 2002 of the Illinois State Employees Association — a part-time job, in addition to his full-time job at IDOT, which these days pays more than $108,000 annually. No immediate word if the ISEA post is becoming full time. A woman at Local 2002’s office in Springfield told me, “We don’t have any comment,” and any statement would have to come from Stout. He couldn’t immediately be reached.

A one-time Teamsters Local 916 official, Stout was director of operations for the Midwest regional office of the Laborers’ International Union when, early in the administration of Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, he got a $50-an-hour contract to work at IDOT on personnel and labor issues. He later moved into the traffic safety head role.

It was the firing of several people in what the agency called a “material reorganization” in 2004 that led Stout to be one of the defendants in a lawsuit that said he and others let the people go because they were Republicans. A federal jury in Peoria last February found in favor of 16 workers fired in 2004, and against Stout and others. The state then agreed to settlements with the plaintiffs.

This October, the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission reported that Stout got a letter of reprimand and counseling about the proper use of his state computer and a state car  following findings against him by the executive inspector general. Among findings were that Stout had 73 files on IDOT computers not related to official business on subjects including the St. Louis Cardinals.

At least he probably enjoyed the recent World Series.

Stout also was found to have used benefit time improperly, getting more than 90 days pay to which he wasn’t entitled. He argued that he had notified superiors of his time off, but the hours were ordered deducted from his available benefit time.

There has been evidence over the years that Stout isn’t shy about letting co-workers know when he doesn’t like something — such as the time in 2007 when, after I did a column about his outside job at ISEA, somebody anonymously posted a picture apparently on the theme of double-dipping. His email to co-workers included his offer to “take the coward artist out for dinner and give them a chance to be a real man or woman!”

 An affidavit by one of the 16 plaintiffs in the lawsuit had claimed that, as Stout was trying to get him to “do the honorable thing and resign,” Stout said, “there is no such thing as longevity in state government work anymore.”

Maybe he was right.

Genuine or theatrics?
U.S. Rep. TIM JOHNSON, R-Urbana,  who is co-chair of the  House Center Aisle Caucus designed to promote bipartisanship, made his differences with House GOP leadership obvious last week.

After a 234-193 vote of the Republican-dominated House Tuesday for what was called the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, Johnson not only issued a news release saying how wrong it was for his party to push legislation loaded up with things sure not to pass the Senate, but he later spoke about it on the House floor.

The bill would extend the 2-percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, but also move forward an oil pipeline project that President BARACK OBAMA wasn’t ready to advance. Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID, D-Nev., said the measure was dead on arrival in the Senate.

“My message to leadership in both chambers is please quit wasting our time and the people’s time,” he said.

While he’s for the pipeline and the tax cut extension, he said other elements of the bill, including means testing for Medicare recipients, shouldn’t have been included and were simply “a road to nowhere.”

He was the only Illinois Republican to vote against the bill. All Illinois House Democrats voted against it except Rep. LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-Chicago, who did not vote.

In his floor speech, Johnson said, “I make dozens of calls, and similar personal contacts, directly with my constituents every day. … In my years in public office, I have never heard the level of anger I hear today. … We are gripped in gridlock because people on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers and in the White House, are more concerned with politics than in progress.”

He also voted against a revised version of the legislation that passed the House on Friday.
Meanwhile, Johnson had been the only member of the Illinois GOP congressional delegation not to join in the lawsuit — thrown out just last week — that challenged the new district map drawn by Illinois General Assembly, which is in Democratic hands. The new 13th, where he is running, also is home to two Democrats seeking the nomination to take him on. Neither of them was impressed with Johnson’s strong words.

 “Nice try, but after a 40-year career in politics (including the Urbana City Council and in the Illinois House) and a decade in Congress, it’s crystal clear that Tim Johnson is part of the problem,” said DAN HERKERT, campaign manager for candidate MATT GOETTEN, Greene County state’s attorney.

There was more in a statement from the campaign of Dr. DAVID GILL, an emergency room physician from Bloomington, including: “Johnson’s attempt to castigate his colleagues as being out of touch with the real world is galling — this 40-year career politician has taken advantage of gerrymandered maps to win election after election, in spite of the lie he issued regarding term limits.”

Johnson had said when running for Congress in 2000 that he would serve only serve six years. He later said he changed his mind because he realized the self-imposed limit also diminished his effectiveness.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.