MIKE STOUT, director of the traffic safety division at the Illinois Department of Transportation, got a letter of reprimand and counseling about the proper use of his state computer and a state car — which he no longer has — following four findings against him by the Office of Executive Inspector General.

MIKE STOUT, director of the traffic safety division at the Illinois Department of Transportation, got a letter of reprimand and counseling about the proper use of his state computer and a state car — which he no longer has — following four findings against him by the Office of Executive Inspector General.

The IG’s office also found that Stout did not properly use benefit time in 23 instances of time off, during which he received more than 90 hours’ pay to which he wasn’t entitled. The IG recommended that Stout repay more than $5,000 or deduct the hours from his available benefit time. Then-IDOT Secretary GARY HANNIG ordered the hours deducted, IDOT spokesman GUY TRIDGELL said.

He was also found to have not disclosed one outside job, to have used a state vehicle for unauthorized purposes and to have used his state computer and email for personal business.
Three other allegations against Stout came up  “unfounded,” including that his outside employment with the Illinois State Employees Association union represents a conflict of interest with his IDOT job and that he wrongly used his IDOT cell phone and IDOT time for union business. Complainants’ names, by law, are kept confidential, said CHAD FORNOFF, executive director of the Executive Ethics Commission, which published the IG’s findings and Stout’s response.

In his eight-page response, Stout said his timesheets accurately reflected his use of leave or benefit time and that he had notified supervisors of his days off. One of the emails included as evidence was sent by Stout at 12:24 a.m. Feb. 3, 2010. It stated, “Up late probably off tomorrow.”

“I never received any communication indicating that I was not authorized to take off the time reflected in the e-mail notifications,” Stout said in the response. But he also said he accepted responsibility, saying it was “immaterial” if he or his administrative assistant should have filled out his leave requests. The IG said it was up to Stout “to ensure the accuracy of his own time records.”

The report said Stout did file secondary employment disclosure forms in 2007 and 2009, noting that he was business manager of ISEA Local 2002, a job he’s held since 2002. He was also a paid member of the group’s district council. The amount of pay was redacted from the IG’s report. Stout, 57, makes about $108,300 in his state job.

Stout wrote in his response that business managers of locals are automatic delegates to the district council, and he assumed his disclosure of the ISEA position covered both outside jobs. The IG disagreed.

The allegation about misuse of an IDOT vehicle, which was found to be accurate, included photos of Stout’s then-state car parked at his union local office. Stout said he didn’t drive there on state time,  he now doesn’t get a state car, and he regularly uses his personal car for state business and “at no time” has claimed mileage.

Investigators found Stout had 73 files on IDOT computers that were not related to official business. Topics included the ISEA, the St. Louis Cardinals and personal photos. It was also found that, over 14 months, he sent 77 emails unrelated to IDOT business and received 96 emails containing ads. Though those email numbers are “limited,” the report states, they still violated state policy.

In his response, Stout wrote about the hundreds of state emails he processed during time off, including 28 while his wife was in surgery.

“To hold my use of the state e-mail system for personal use against me without comparing my personal time answering and responding to state e-mails is unfair,” Stout wrote.

The IG found no conflict between Stout’s union and state jobs because the ISEA doesn’t bargain with IDOT. The IG also said the very small amount of time he used to make calls or send emails about the ISEA didn’t constitute abuse of IDOT time or its cell phone.

In a May 23 letter from Hannig to RICARDO MEZA, the state’s executive inspector general, Hannig said Stout had been counseled about auto and phone use and was told to keep his outside employment notifications up to date. Hannig wrote that Stout got a letter of reprimand reminding him future violations would lead to more discipline.

LEO CARROLL, business agent of Teamsters Local 916, which represents some IDOT workers, said he thinks Stout got “disparate” treatment. Some other workers with “founded” allegations have received suspensions of 10 days or more, and some even were discharged, he said.
Tridgell said via email that IDOT responds to IG findings “consistently in accordance with … longstanding policies,” and discipline in this case was “appropriate.”

“Violations are not tolerated,” Tridgell said.

No telling if Stout, whose wife and daughter also work for IDOT, knows who turned him in. But if the past is prologue, he might not be happy about it.

Back in 2007, after I did a column about his second job for ISEA, someone at IDOT anonymously posted a drawing, apparently on the theme of alleged double-dipping. Stout sent out an email to his workers giving an “art award” to that person.

“Although there wasn’t an art contest, I will still take the coward artist out for dinner and give them a chance to be a real man or woman!” Stout wrote then. “I doubt they will come forward.”

‘Young & Powerful’ event set
The re-election campaign of President BARACK OBAMA will be the beneficiary of a Springfield fundraiser on Friday honoring several local citizens and organizations. It’s part of a multi-city string of fundraisers sponsored by a group called Young & Powerful for Obama.

The catch? It’s $25 to attend, and it’s a cash bar.

The local organizer is DOMINIC WATSON, a project coordinator for the Springfield Urban League. Among honorees are NINA HARRIS, president and CEO of the Springfield Urban League, civil rights activist RUDY DAVENPORT, Ward 3 Ald. DORIS TURNER, former Ward 2 Ald. FRANK McNEIL and Philadelphia 76er ANDRE IGUODALA and his mother, LINDA SHANKLIN. Watson said Iguodala can’t attend, but a representative of his youth foundation will be there.

Also being honored are the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and local chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Among those presenting awards, Watson said, will be former Springfield mayoral candidate SHEILA STOCKS-SMITH and Illinois House candidate WINSTON TAYLOR.

The event is from 7 to 10 p.m. at Catch 22, 11 W. Old Capitol Plaza.

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