The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) earlier this year suspended failed Chicago aldermanic candidate Dwayne Truss for seven days after the state’s inspector general found he had made dozens of social media posts related to his 2019 run for City Council while on the clock for IDES, according to a report published Monday.
Truss, a longtime auditor with IDES, unsuccessfully ran against Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29) last winter, garnering 27.5 percent of the vote. But months after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot won her election, she appointed Truss to the Chicago Board of Education. Truss earns more than $87,000 per year at IDES, according to state records. He served the suspension in February.
Illinois Executive Inspector General Susan Haling’s office received a complaint about Truss’ social media use during work hours last February — five days before the aldermanic election. Haling opened a case into Truss, which ended in the longtime IDES employee admitting to making some of his campaign social media posts on state time but denying that he’d violated the State Employee Ethics Act or IDES policy.
State employee ethics law prohibits state employees from performing political activity during work hours, including “preparing for, organizing or participating in any political meeting or event…planning the solicitation of contributions including…tickets for any political event.” Haling’s office found that the Facebook and Twitter posts from Truss’ campaign accounts during work hours should be categorized as organizing events and planning to solicit campaign contributions.
Truss denied violating state law, saying his understanding of the State Employee Ethics Act was that in order to have engaged in prohibited political activity, he would either have had to solicit or distribute campaign materials to his co-workers, or be at his desk working on his campaign. Truss said he posted on social media on behalf of his campaign using his personal cell phone, and not his IDES-issued mobile phone or computer.
However, Truss admitted that he’d made photocopies of at least two pieces of campaign materials while at work.
According to the report, Haling’s office zeroed in on nine social media posts made by Truss’ campaign that “clearly involv[ed] prohibited political activity,” beginning in July 2018. The posts announced canvassing events, a birthday fundraiser and three posts “concerning political rivals.” Truss denied his posts concerning Taliaferro and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel were campaign-related, and contended he’d made them while on breaks at work and from his personal cell phone.
Truss was also defiant in whether his other posts made during work hours violated state law, arguing the posts about canvassing events and his birthday fundraiser were not directly organizing or soliciting campaign donations, though he did admit to making the fundraiser post during state time.
“According to Mr. Truss, fundraising would occur at the event itself, rather than through the posting of social media on September 7,” according to the report.
Haling’s office disagreed.
“The post not only advertised a political event meant to fund Mr. Truss’s aldermanic campaign, but also informed the reader of how to make payment to his campaign, including to whom checks should be made out,” according to the report. “Because this post: helped to prepare for or organize a political event, solicited — or at the very least planned the solicitation of—contributions in the form of tickets purchased for a political event…this post also constituted prohibited political activity.”
The investigation found that Truss did not use his desk phone to make calls to his campaign manager, but Truss’ subpoenaed personal cell phone records showed he’d made at least seven phone calls to his campaign manager during work hours, two of which were longer than the 15-minute paid breaks IDES employees are allowed to claim.
Truss’ seven-day suspension is much shorter than a 30-day suspension served by an Illinois Department of Transportation employee last year, who was found to have made four Facebook posts on state time in favor of the campaign of former State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who was challenging then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in a bitter Republican primary battle in 2018.