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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005 07:16 am

Flood of controversy

Governor moves political ally to better-paying lower-profile job

To the bewilderment of some Illinois Democrats, Sam Flood started a new job this week as assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, a position that had been vacant for two years. Flood, former St. Clair County official-turned-governmental relations director for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will earn $96,100 a year in his new job, an increase of $21,000, and will be primarily responsible for preparing the World Shooting and Recreational Complex near Sparta, which is scheduled to open next summer. But some question the prudence of the governor’s appointment, considering that Flood has been accused of using political influence to get his son, Scott, hired to a supervisory position with the DNR. Ray Coleman, plaintiff in a lawsuit that names Sam Flood and DNR director Joel Brunsvold as defendants, calls the appointment a slap in the face to the black community. Civil rights groups have also scrutinized the department for not hiring enough minorities. “How stupid or blatantly insensitive is this decision?” asks Coleman, who up until a few weeks ago was challenging Flood for the state’s 12th District’s Democratic Central Committee seat. Flood has since dropped out of the race. East St. Louis Mayor Carl Officer, who says he has known Flood for almost 30 years, echoes Coleman’s sentiment. “I’m a little surprised that Sam would accept a position like that because I am not familiar with anything in his background to suggest he’s qualified for the position,” Officer says. However, Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch says Flood has a “long, impressive career in state government” and the governor is confident that Flood is the right person for the job. Roy Williams Jr., executive director of the Illinois Association of Minorities in government, has been highly critical of patronage in Blagojevich’s administration. Several members of Williams’ organization, also DNR employees, have filed complaints with Illinois Department of Human Rights, claiming a hostile environment toward blacks at the agency. Coleman calls Flood the “poster child for everything that’s wrong at DNR.”
Even if Flood is qualified for an assistant directorship of a state agency, Williams believes the governor could have chosen to place him in another agency. “I don’t think that’s the smartest place they could have put him,” Williams says.
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