Rauner appointee, accused of ethics violations, removed from Illinois board

John Clough

Emily Hoerner / Injustice Watch

Illinois Prisoner Review Board member John Clough, top left, at an en banc hearing in June.

Less than a year after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed a Coles County Sheriff’s deputy to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, Rauner’s office removed former deputy John Clough amidst allegations of misconduct that occurred before and during Clough’s appointment to the board.

The removal, which occurred last Friday, was confirmed by the governor’s office and a review board spokesman after reporters noticed his name was no longer listed on the website list of board members.

A downstate watchdog group, the Edgar County Watchdogs, discovered by obtaining Clough’s personnel file from the sheriff’s office that Clough had been overheard twice using a racial slur while he was a deputy. The citizen investigative group, which shared the documents with Injustice Watch, also obtained a financial disclosure form that Clough erroneously filled out when he was appointed to the board, and surveillance video footage appearing to show Clough using his state-issued vehicle for political purposes.

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After Injustice Watch published an article on the allegations in December, a spokeswoman for Rauner called the allegations serious and said his office was “reviewing them.” But the governor’s office repeatedly failed to respond to questions about the status of that review, even after confirming that Clough had been removed.

Membership on the 15-member state board, which sets conditions of release for state prisoners, decides on alleged parole violations and hears parole requests for a small group of older inmates incarcerated for crimes committed in the 1970s, is considered a full-time job, paying $85,000.

Clough could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Before taking the job, he spent nearly 23 years at the Coles County Sheriff’s Office, where his disciplinary file indicated he was overheard using a slur derogatory toward African Americans “not once, but twice,” in March of 2015.

More than half the Illinois prison population and about 60 percent of the parole population is black, according to Illinois Department of Corrections statistics.

When Clough was appointed to the board, the financial disclosure form he filled out failed to list his recent employment with the sheriff’s office, according to the documents obtained by the Edgar County group.

And in December, photographic evidence showed Clough appearing to use the vehicle he was issued by the state for his board membership to deliver petitions to run for Coles County Republican committeeman. The Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act prohibits state employees from using state property in political activity.

The group filed a complaint with the state’s inspector general, John Kraft of the Edgar County Watchdogs said in December.

“Not only the vehicle use and the economic interest statement, but the words he used in his previous job, it just doesn’t work with somebody getting paid by the taxpayers,” Kraft said.