Circuit Allows Lawsuit Against Gov. Blagojevich

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit reinstated a former Illinois Gaming Board administrator’s lawsuit accusing Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his administration of denying her a raise based on her gender and trying to silence her opposition to their alleged strong-arm tactics in the gaming industry.

     The court reversed dismissal of the sex discrimination and retaliation claims of Jeannette Tamayo’s 2006 lawsuit against the governor, two top staff members, the gaming board and the state Department of Revenue.
     Tamayo was appointed interim administrator of the gaming board shortly after Blagojevich took office in January 2003. Almost immediately, she resisted how he allegedly used Chief of Staff Alonzo Monk and Revenue Director Brian Hamer to try to take over the gaming board’s operations and administrative hearings.
     Tamayo said they tried to force the board to hire people who worked for Blagojevich’s administration, interfered with the established casino bidding process, ordered the board to drop its investigations of certain casinos and demanded the confidential financial information of other casinos.
     When Tamayo objected, she “became quite unpopular” with the governor’s office, the ruling states.
     She also took issue with her salary, saying she never received the promised bump from $107,000 to $160,000 – the salary bracket of two former male administrators. In April 2004, she filed a sex-discrimination charge over the Department of Revenue’s alleged failure to boost her pay.
     In February 2005, Tamayo also testified before the Illinois House Gaming Committee about the governor and the revenue department’s alleged attempts to overpower the board’s independence.
     Blagojevich responded by replacing the board with all new commissioners, who allegedly shut Tamayo out of meetings. She said she was officially removed from the board in November and replaced by a male administrator.
     The appeals court determined that she had enough evidence to support her claims for sex discrimination and retaliation, but not her First Amendment claim that the administration tried to stifle her speech. Her testimony to the house committee was given as an employee, not as a public citizen, Judge Ripple concluded.

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