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Reform and renewal

Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014

* Give state grant money to the head of one of the most effective Democratic political organizations in the state, and surprises are few

Young job seekers in Chicago’s south suburbs stood to benefit from almost half a million dollars awarded by Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-defunct anti-violence grant program that’s under investigation.

But some of that money went to a local government official with ties to Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli, who is a south suburban power broker known for turning out the vote and a political supporter of Quinn, the Better Government Association has found.

Thornton Township Youth Director Jerry Weems, a Zuccarelli underling and campaign contributor, got part of his salary paid with state grant money; got nearly $10,000 for his own nonprofit; and even more money — $3,600 — for a company owned by his sister-in-law. […]

With the grant money, the nonprofit paid teens $8.50 an hour to pass out anti-violence literature at events. It also paid Weems’ own nonprofit organization, Vision Management Services, $9,600 in 2012 for leading young adult workshops on stress management, anger resolution and basic social skills, according to interviews and records.

The Youth Committee Program also gave Weems a salary of more than $14,000 total in 2011 and 2012 with grant funds. The payments were in addition to Weems’ annual township pay, currently $127,722. Separately, the Youth Committee Program paid Enhanced Skillstreaming Professionals Inc. $3,600 with grant funds in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. State records show that private company is owned by Toinette Hill, Weems’ sister-in-law. Hill declined to comment.

Again with paying kids to hand out anti-violence fliers. This is nothing but make-work. OK, it gets kids off the streets for a few hours, puts a few bucks in their pockets, but is it really accomplishing anything?

* Meanwhile

The legislative commission that last month opened hearings into Auditor General William Holland’s audit of Gov. Pat Quinn’s scandal-tainted Neighborhood Recovery Initiative announced Tuesday a new hearing date in July to continue delving into the report.

The Legislative Audit Commission has set July 16 and, if necessary, July 17 to continue hearing testimony on Quinn’s 2010 anti-violence grant program that is now under state and federal investigation.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


29 Comments
  1. - Harry - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    One wonders if Quinn has the self-awareness to ever ask himself what happened to the young reformer of the 1970s.


  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    A Quinn spokesman says politics had no bearing on the anti-violence grant award

    Cue laughing Rauner (and everyone else track here)


  3. - Leroy - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    “OK, it gets kids off the streets for a few hours, puts a few bucks in their pockets, but is it really accomplishing anything?”

    VERY few people in Illinois can get away with asking that question, and Rich is one of them.

    Thanks, Rich!


  4. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    ==“OK, it gets kids off the streets for a few hours, puts a few bucks in their pockets, but is it really accomplishing anything?==

    It is training these kids for a career in sign spinning as Cash for Gold advertisers. While it is an honest job, no real skills are taught.


  5. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    On a side note, the money from this program would have been enough to give the States few merit comp employees who are responsible for managing the overwhelmingly large union work force merit raises. They have been frozen since 2008. Since that time union pay has gone up 48%.


  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:25 am:

    ===the money from this program would have been enough to give the States few merit comp employees… merit raises===

    Oh, for Pete’s sake.


  7. - JSlim - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Why in hell is the Youth Services Director in a township pulling down $127,000+ in salary??!!


  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    Rich-

    My understanding is that the Quinn administration designed the program to REQUIRE the kids hand out flyers. If you wanted the kids to do something else…pick up litter, paint parks…the answer was Nope.

    So let’s not blame the nonprofits for that element.


  9. - Just Observing - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    === Again with paying kids to hand out anti-violence fliers. This is nothing but make-work. OK, it gets kids off the streets for a few hours, puts a few bucks in their pockets, but is it really accomplishing anything? ===

    And how many of these silly flyers actually were passed out. I’m willing to bet a good number of passers hung out in McDonald’s for a couple hours, threw the flyers in a dumpster, and came to collect their cash.


  10. - The Prince - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:30 am:

    Just Observing: Bingo.


  11. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Rich that is a mean headline.


  12. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    Why in hell is the Youth Services Director in a township pulling down $127,000+ in salary??!!

    Do not ask questions about comp or serving on multiple entities in Thornton Township…


  13. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    I guess I have lived in Illinois too long, but this seems like kind of small potatoes to me. Isn’t this the other Illinois (currently Democratic)political patronage system, alive and kicking as usual under Reformer Quinn. Billions are given out in state grants and contracts, and lots of politically connected folks who couldn’t get on the public payroll are rewarded through the “nonprofits” and other entities which get those grants. No pesky Rutan considerations–pure political pull to get those jobs. Maybe the “nonprofits” involved believe they need to hire these somebodies somebody sent to get the grants.
    When in Rome.

    And when you live in one of the country’s most corrupt states, this stuff seems all too normal.


  14. - Nieva - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    So who drew these flyers up and how were those contracts awarded in such a hurry? Were they no bid? How about the printing? I hope they are digging a little deeper on the money spent for this project.


  15. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    “OK kids - line up!”

    “What we want you to do today is take this flier and pass it out to people around you.”

    “Now, we didn’t budget to print more than a flier for each of you. So what you will have to do is - if you are right-handed, duct tape a flier to your left hand. If you are left-handed, duct tape a flier to your right hand.”

    “OK - does everyone have a flier taped to a hand?”

    “Now watch me. I smile and lean towards another person and pretend to be handing them the flier taped to your other hand.”


  16. - Walker - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    @Leroy: I get your sentiment, but it’s not all so fearsome that only Rich can open his mouth without retribution.

    I’ve heard similar questions asked about Weems, Zuccarelli, and the waste of this and similar programs, by a lot of regular Dems with a desire for reform. The key is how do we kill or cure the beast.

    “Purity tests” around policy issues can slowly kill a party, as we can witness.

    But perhaps freedom from certain types of “legal corruption” might be the kind of purity test we can rally around among the Dems.

    There are plenty of Dem players who do not participate in such shenanigans.


  17. - Apacolypse Now - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    Sure looks like it kept Frank Zuccarelli off the streets, along with his other employees.


  18. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:56 am:

    trying to figure out if Zuccarelli should be a verb or a noun in regular use about politics in Illinois.


  19. - Rob Roy - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 10:58 am:

    Improve the job climate in IL and businesses would hire and the government would not have to redistribute money on poorly thought out overly expensive dig ditch and fill them type work.


  20. - Steve - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    -Again with paying kids to hand out anti-violence fliers. This is nothing but make-work. OK, it gets kids off the streets for a few hours, puts a few bucks in their pockets, but is it really accomplishing anything?-

    Rich is making fun here of future precinct captains. Handing out fliers can be the beginning to eventually running a property tax appeals business… I mean a ward organization.


  21. - Walker - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    @Steve: Good one.


  22. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    @Ghost 10:24=2008. Since that time union pay has gone up 48%.=

    Specifically, What union workers have got a 48% increase?


  23. - Sir Reel - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    Looks like Weems reams the taxpayers of Thornton Township to the tune of $127,000 a year. I wonder what township staff who have something more serious than directing youth make?


  24. - A guy... - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:26 am:

    Passing out fliers is the threshold for moving millions of dollars into neighborhoods…for votes. And Derrick “the dufus” just got smacked for a $7K letter. Welcome to the State of Insanity.


  25. - 1776 - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    Is Jerry Weems any relation to Malcolm Weems who left CMS to work on Quinn’s campaign?


  26. - CirularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Wow it took the magoos at the BGA two years to figure this one out?
    BTW how far along are they on the search of Rauner’s 4oo biz schemes?


  27. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    This reeks of a policy of funneling State funds to party ops through “good name” programs, gong a token amount to a shell program, then distributing it bugs bunny style (one for you, two for me, one for you, two for me)


  28. - Jerome Horwitz - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    When I think about how not-for-profit organizations have financially struggled through cuts in funding and delays in payments over the past six years, this story makes me sick.


  29. - Ghost - Wednesday, Jun 11, 14 @ 2:05 pm:

    I am sure Pete would have been happy for a raise :)


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