SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois House Republican staffer has been punished for performing political activities on state time.

SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois House Republican staffer has been punished for performing political activities on state time.


Nicholas McNeely of Springfield was suspended for five days and was placed on six months probation for posting a comment on a political blog and for signing up to volunteer in a primary campaign.


Legislative inspector general Tom Homer reported the violations in February, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross disciplined McNeely in March.


McNeely was supporting state Rep. Kent Gaffney, R-Lake Barrington, in the primary election. Gaffney ultimately was defeated by David McSweeney.


“Rep. Kent Gaffney and I do not tolerate any prohibited political activity on state time,” Cross said in a statement Tuesday. “When we first learned of the allegation against one of our staff members, we investigated it immediately internally and then fully complied with the Inspector General’s investigation.”


Cross said Homer agreed with their disciplinary actions.


State law prohibits state employees from performing political activities during working hours. Employees are allowed to do political work if they use vacation, personal, or compensatory time.


McNeely in September posted a number of comments on the McHenry County Republican Blog criticizing McSweeney. One of the comments was posted during working hours, Homer found.


McNeely also signed up as a campaign volunteer on McSweeney’s website during working hours. 


“McNeely admitted that he had volunteered in order to gather political intelligence on the opposition. He explained that this is a common tactic in political campaigns,” Homer wrote in his report.  “He was unable, however, to justify or explain what he was doing on McSweeney’s campaign website during working hours.”


McNeely eventually took a leave of absence to work on Gaffney’s campaign. Gaffney declined to comment.


The McSweeney campaign accused two other House Republican staffers of doing political work on state time, but Homer said those charges were unfounded.


David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.