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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In one of his first acts as Illinois’ new governor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, fired 35 people, including credit union division head Sarah Vega, who were appointed to their jobs by outgoing Republican governor George Ryan. Vega, who became Ryan’s director of the Department of Financial Institutions in 1999, had served as supervisor of the credit union division from 1991 until her promotion. The reappointment of Vega to the supervisor’s job was part of a controversial move by the outgoing governor. Gov. Ryan last summer won a change in state work rules that shortened the probationary period for term employees from six months to 30 days. Vega’s appointment was one of many he made prior to Dec. 13 that shifted political appointees into protected jobs. The credit union job came with a four-year term of employment. However, the Chicago Tribune reported Jan. 15 that Blagojevich believes the hiring process which moved Vega and others into protected jobs was illegal, circumventing state personnel policies. He said people involved in the mass firing could reapply for their jobs, though he also announced a state hiring freeze. “We’re saddened, because we think she (Vega) was qualified for her job,” Keith Sias, director of state legislative affairs for the Illinois Credit Union League. “We’d encourage Sarah to reapply, but I don’t know if she’s going to do it or not.” NASCUS President/CEO Doug Duerr shared Sias’s sentiments and was pragmatic about the facts of political life. “We’re certainly disappointed that Sarah is not remaining,” he said. “She did many positive things for her credit unions, but we understand this is part of the natural process.” Sias said the credit union division’s two assistant supervisors remain in their jobs. One of those assistant supervisors, Patrick Smith, served as acting division supervisor until Vega returned to the department last month. Duerr said he has already spoken to Smith and that he will be NASCUS’ contact. “He is exercising the administrative responsibilities at this time,” Duerr said. Vega could not be reached for comment. -

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