Former Illinois Prisoner Review Board member Jeffrey Mears, who failed to receive confirmation for that post from the Illinois Senate last month, has been appointed to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.
Gov. JB Pritzker made that appointment Thursday, setting Mears up to face another Senate vote in the next General Assembly.
The Illinois Labor Relations Board certifies collective bargaining units. It also investigates and remedies unfair labor practices by public employers and unions, assists with arbitration and mediation to resolve labor-related disputes, and conducts emergency investigations of public employee strikes.
Before serving on the Prisoner Review Board, Mears was employed as a union painter for the Department of Corrections for nearly 20 years, but also served as a hostage negotiations coordinator, the negotiations team and statewide audit review team.
“His experience in de-escalation and crisis intervention speaks to his skills in collaboration, communication and thoughtful approach to complex issues and we look forward to his continued service to the state of Illinois,” Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said.
Mears’ new appointment to the Labor Relations Board comes with a nearly $98,000 salary.
Mears was one of six members to leave the Prisoner Review Board in recent weeks after the appointment process came under scrutiny by Republican members of the Senate.
PRB member Oreal James resigned. Eleanor Kaye Wilson, along with Mears, failed to win Senate confirmation. Pritzker pulled his appointment of Max Cerda, who had been convicted and served time for a double murder before his release from prison and his working with offenders.
Senators voting against Mears and Wilson cited some of their votes to release controversial individuals. Senate Republicans long raised concerns about the number of PRB members who were voting on offender releases without being confirmed by the Senate. Those releases included offenders convicted of rape and murder, killing police officers and the murder of children.
In addition to 18 Republicans who voted no on Mears’ appointment to the PRB, 18 Democrats did not vote. Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, joined the GOP and voted no.
Pritzker also pulled the appointments of Aurthur Mae Perkins, 83, of Peoria, and Joseph Ruggiero, 62, of Wheaton, for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The two appointees, originally appointed by Republican former Gov. Bruce Rauner, had served on the PRB without Senate confirmation for nearly three years each.
The loss of the six members left the PRB without a quorum and forced the postponement of a clemency docket in April. As of Friday, the PRB website said the board was “working to finalize a future date and location.”
Earlier this month, Pritzker appointed ex-Cook County Judge Robin Shoffner and Rauner’s former chief of staff, Rodger Heaton, to the PRB. Their appointments quickly passed through committee and they both were confirmed by the Senate, allowing the board to reach a quorum.
The controversy surrounding the PRB centered on candidates who had their appointments withdrawn then resubmitted. Wilson and James were appointed on April 2, 2019, but Pritzker pulled their appointments on March 19, 2021. They were reappointed two days later.
The governor can withdraw nominations and reappoint the same appointee to restart the 60-session-day clock in which their appointments could be heard by the Senate. This practice is allowed under Senate rules and has been used by previous governors. If they hit the end of 60 days, they are automatically considered approved.
Mears was initially appointed to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in March 2021. He was scheduled to go before the Senate Executive Committee in May, but that appearance was canceled that morning, he said during his testimony before the Senate in March.
Mears served on the Prisoner Review Board for a year, making decisions on 40 cases involving the release of those serving time in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He received an annual salary of roughly $90,000.
Mears also serves as the Democratic Party Chairman for Johnson County in southern Illinois.
Mears declined to comment for this story.