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More audit fallout for Quinn

Monday, Mar 3, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Some Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members are saying “I told you so” in the wake of a stunning state Auditor General’s investigation into misspending, waste and possibly even fraud in an anti-violence initiative hastily created by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn created the program in August of 2010 a few days after meeting with ministers from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood about rising violence. In early September, several Chicago aldermen gave their lists of preferred local groups which could administer the state program. Quinn’s administration sent requests for proposal only to those alderman-recommended groups.

By October, just weeks before the November, 2010 election, the program had mushroomed to $50 million.

Despite initial claims that a specific formula was used to choose the targeted neighborhoods for violence reduction programs, no actual documentation exists for how those decisions were made.

Some of the request for proposal applications were changed retroactively and, curiously enough, quite a few of the highest crime neighborhoods received no funding at all.

The audit found that up to 40 percent of spending couldn’t be documented, several neighborhood groups did not maintain required time sheet documentation, and $2 million in unspent funds couldn’t be explained.

The audit produced some of the most scathing findings and harshest language of any such reports since the Rod Blagojevich days. The audit uncovered “pervasive deficiencies in [the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority’s] planning, implementation, and management of the [Governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative] program,” for instance.

Some Legislative Black Caucus members say Gov. Quinn was specifically warned in 2010 not to deal directly with aldermen or allow them to pick local groups. State grants have a history of problems, and tough regulatory and reporting laws meant that letting politicized aldermen control the recipients could only lead to trouble.

Plus, this was state money. Legislators viewed that as their domain. Going around them to the aldermen was seen as an insult.

But Quinn went around the legislators anyway, threw the program together in a rush and then the whole thing disintegrated.

A 2012 CNN report included minutes from a September, 2010 IVPA meeting that quoted an official from the governor’s office saying “The governor’s office is committed to allocating some of the funds for this initiative immediately and will allocate the rest after the election,” which was deemed a “smoking gun” by some Republicans, who claimed that it proves Quinn used millions in state money to boost his tough election campaign against Bill Brady. Quinn barely edged out Brady that November.

Currying favor with Chicago aldermen also resulted in a recent benefit for Quinn. Some members of the Legislative Black Caucus met with African-American aldermen who are also ward committeemen last year and asked them to hold off on an early Cook County Democratic Party vote to slate Quinn.

The legislators wanted the opportunity to push Quinn on things like Medicaid funding, but their pleas were dismissed, with aldermen saying that, unlike the legislators, they had built a strong relationship with Quinn.

The result is that Quinn isn’t currently finding many allies among the Black Caucus as he gears up to defend himself against the allegations.

In fact, the Senate’s Black Caucus Chairman Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation to require that members of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority be confirmed by the Illinois Senate.

The ICJIA is now administering the scaled back anti-violence program. Jones’ bill has been assigned to the Senate Executive Committee and Sen. Jones said last week he wants to use the legislation to bring some “accountability” to the violence programs.

Quinn has been in hot water with the Black Caucus for a while now. For instance, African-American Senators, along with Latinos have refused to support the Senate’s confirmation of Julie Hamos for another term as Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

They’re angry at the way Hamos has pushed for cuts to the state’s Medicaid program. “Let her get Republican votes,” said one Senator recently when asked about Hamos’ prospects.

The governor recently hired a formerly popular black state official to handle Hamos’ relations with the General Assembly, but the political brick on Hamos appears too big to be schmoozed away.

Anyway, Republicans want a full-scale criminal investigation of this violence program mess, with some justification, so things could get really hairy, really soon. And Gov. Quinn will need all the allies he can get. It’s time he made a peace offering.

* Quinn went on Channel 7 Friday to defend himself

The governor says his administration caught what he called “paperwork problems” two years ago. It then abolished the IVPA to let the Illinois Justice Information Authority oversee the anti-violence program.

“Everything that was in that audit, we were accomplishing two years ago,” said Quinn.

Meanwhile, the governor is also taking heat from fellow Democrats. Some legislative black caucus members are disappointed that aldermen and neighborhood residents steered the anti-violence grants. Senator Donne Trotter said of the governor: “He thought he would do better with his city friends. Instead of working with his traditional partners– state lawmakers– he tried something new and it backfired in his face.”

“I just don’t agree with that approach. I think when you fight violence you have to have a bubble up approach,” said Gov. Quinn. “The bottom line is, I listened to the parents who had lost their sons and daughters more than anything.”

Quinn says the anti-violence program is now overseen by another state agency called the Illinois Justice Information Authority. But the controversy is far from over, certainly not during this election year.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - A guy... - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    This will ripen big time for the general. There’s no rose in this manure patch. It doesn’t look like there’s a single thing to point to that says this money did an ounce of good. Paperwork problem?? Oy.


  2. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    40% of the spending not being documented is not a ‘paperwork problem’…


  3. - horse w/ no name - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    The dynamic between city alderman and their legislators is a complicated one. Quinn injecting himself into that dynamic is just the latest example that the man as zero clue how to govern effectively.


  4. - Cassandra - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    So, the head of the IVPA is the designated scapegoat? Whoever this person is, shouldn’t there first be an investigation of what he/she thought was going on. If something seemed off, what did the agency head do about it. If state agencies are simply pass-throughs for politically motivated spending by the governor’s office, then what, exactly, is the role of agency chiefs. Is anybody in state government protecting our money
    under the Quinn admin. A Quinn admin that likely will soon be asking for a lot more of it.


  5. - Steve - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    Mistakes were made.


  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    Nothing good here for Quinn. The most generous conclusion is terrible management.

    Anyone can put together a tough spot about “millions of taxpayer dollars unaccounted for.”


  7. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    The difference between Rauner and Quinn is Rauner uses his money to buy an election and Quinn uses your money to buy an election.

    I prefer the guy who doesn’t see our money as his.


  8. - Cassandra - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    And mistakes will be made. We taxpayers understand that. But $54 million of mistakes? Or even half of that, assuming some of the money went someplace legit. That’s an awful lot of money to most people. Where is the AG on this? Or the feds? Shouldn’t somebody go to jail?


  9. - RonOglesby - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Tossing money at a problem generally gets folks headlines and votes. but rarely actually solves the problem. And of course when you start vote buying its hard to account for the money.


  10. - Walker - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    ===There’s no rose in this manure patch.===

    Thanks A guy. Made my morning.

    Quinn pretty much knows those he likes. He seems to have little sense whom not to trust.


  11. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    “I prefer the guy who doesn’t see our money as his”

    I prefer a candidate who doesn’t use money he made off of people like me to turn around and try to smash us with it.


  12. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    Does responsible fiscal management ever go with Chicago Alderman?


  13. - Langhorne - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    This needs a serious criminal investigation, w resources and subpoena power. Not a legislative committee. It may be difficult, because they have had two years to lose or destroy docs. The comptroller should still have copies of vouchers and contracts, though. Vouchers have that pesky perjury stmt above the signature line, which would be a good place to start.


  14. - Walter Mitty - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    Vanilla…Totally agree…. That should be a bi-partisan agreement… Grandson… If it was “your” candidate or whomever you choose make it okay that PQ did this? How did the farmer make money of of you? I am in one of the funds that made great returns from the farmers company…He’s not my choice, but I am also tired of the misuse of public funds….Anything but agreement on that is very short sighted…


  15. - Barney Fife - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    PQ should be investigated. The black caucus should not support any PQ appointments for Senate confirmation. Send a Message!


  16. - Living in Machiaville - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    Since Lisa is not going to investigate, the US Atty might want to take a look, after all isn’t this just another “golden” opportunity too?


  17. - railrat - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    wait ’til Auditor General gets around to IDNR as stated earlier “Oy” for sure !!


  18. - Whale watcher - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    Follow the paper…house appros committee had a hand in the cookie jar..The chair that is…


  19. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    >>If it was “your” candidate or whomever you choose make it okay that PQ did this?>How did the farmer make money of of you? I am in one of the funds that made great returns from the farmers company


  20. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    Oops, sorry about the above post. Let’s try this again:

    ##If it was “your” candidate or whomever you choose make it okay that PQ did this?##

    Of course not. It should be thoroughly investigated.

    “How did the farmer make money of of you? I am in one of the funds that made great returns from the farmers company”

    Sure, he managed pension funds out of charity and the kindness of his heart and not to make money for himself.

    Plus, you may like it when someone who made money off of you later uses it to attack you, but I don’t. I’m not masochistic that way.

    Rauner made tons of government money from the nursing homes and pensions, but of course that’s not our money. It’s only “our money” when government unions make it.


  21. - A guy... - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Grandson, he made a fee or commission. The fund did really well. Worry not, your leadership is using your money to criticize him for making so much for your union. Wow. My head hurts.


  22. - Rick S. - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    The tension between African-American alderman and GA members is a really interesting aspect of this story. And another chapter of that battle is about to be written when Chicago pension reform comes up this session. The African-American members of the GA are going to be asked to cut benefits and raise Chicago property taxes, while the aldermen sit politically unscathed on the sidelines — handing out state grants to their favorite community groups and pastors. Expect the calls for shifting pension authority from Springfield to the City Council to pick up steam in the Black Caucus.


  23. - Cassidy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:47 am:

    Unclear from the reports if this program was managed out of the Governor’s office or GOMB. Would be interested in knowing which of the Governor’s staff was in charge and could be on the hot seat.


  24. - Barney Fife - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    Cassidy. Shouldn’t be hard to figure out Lavi & Weems disappeared?


  25. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    “Wow. My head hurts.”

    So does mine, from the hypocrisy. Why did he want the TRS fund anyway? He wanted it badly enough to try to get it a second time.

    “The fund did really well.”

    That makes it even worse. Why is someone who had a beneficial relationship with unionized public employees now so against them? NOW he hates “union bosses,” but not when he invested pension funds for many years? Please.


  26. - Hans Sanity - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:55 am:

    How many senior citizens died in nursing homes as a result of the potential mismanagement state funds in this program?

    The best thing Rauner opponents can do is keep their eye on the ball, find a dozen more, and keep swinging.


  27. - Downstater - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    No surprise, with this report. Look forward to Quinn appointing a blue ribbon panel.


  28. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    Well I suspect you would say it is a stretch but using the ‘using your money against you’ wouldn’t the same be true for them helping Dillard unless they plan on turning on him after the primary.

    I am assuming Dillard voted no on the income tax increase right. Is he against the progressive tax? I would assume so, if so that puts him against the viewpoint of the teachers union, right?

    I get being against Ruaner for his veiwpoints on pensions and unions, but being against him because he made money of off a fund that union members (and non-union members) contributed to without applying that metric consistently seems like a reach.


  29. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    The Black Caucus members are upset because they didn’t get their hands on the money and did not get to direct where it was spent. I doubt the outcome would have been any different.


  30. - concern1 - Tuesday, Mar 4, 14 @ 8:38 am:

    Quinn is the paperwork problem and it ends with a vote to get him out of office and maybe next to blago!!!!


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