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Roberts appointment questioned

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

* The BGA looks at the ties between the new Legislative Inspector General Bill Roberts, a former US Attorney, his law firm and political leaders

* Political committees controlled by Madigan paid Hinshaw & Culbertson more than $40,000 between 2002 and 2008, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Roberts represented Madigan during an investigation by federal authorities in Springfield into the possible misuse of state resources that ended in early 2005 with no charges filed.

* Hinshaw has contributed to the campaign funds of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago; Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-East St. Louis; Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont; and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. Roberts personally donated $500 last year to the campaign fund of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission that approved Roberts’ appointment on May 30. Other members of that committee include Clayborne, who until recently worked for the law firm run by Roberts in its downstate Belleville office.

* State agencies have hired Hinshaw and paid the firm more than $1.8 million over the past five years, state records show. That includes $2,339 from the Cullerton-led Senate Democrats in the 2012 budget year and $1,950 from the Madigan-led House Democrats in 2014.

* The Sun-Times editorial board, while noting Roberts’ respected career, thinks this is a lousy choice

Roberts’ selection reflects a brazen lack of concern for the appearance of good government and the effectiveness of ethics laws. Certainly, the Legislature doesn’t appear to believe the job of the inspector general is very important. If Roberts were to investigate himself, he no doubt would find the appearances of conflict of interest are compelling. It is not a close call.

An IG at any level is supposed to be independent and pursue only the facts. There should be no restraints of a political nature. An IG also relies on the people who are interviewed in the course of gathering facts to believe they are dealing with an unquestionably impartial investigation. Roberts’ ties to legislators cast a shadow over that.

Roberts said he wouldn’t have taken the job if he thought there were conflicts. We’re not sure the average Illinois citizen will see it that way.

The General Assembly is expected next year to select a permanent person to fill the IG job until 2018. Rather than put Roberts in that job, the Legislature should cast a wider net for someone who has not only his investigatory skills, but also a firm record of independence.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


24 Comments
  1. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 9:34 am:

    I think this is overblown. The most qualified candidates for such a post are going to be private practice attorneys doing white collar criminal work and internal investigations. In large part, these folks work in bigger law firms because of the resources needed to handle document-intensive investigations. Such firms work for and donate to everyone under the sun. You’re not going to find a ton of qualified candidates for such a position working in tiny firms or on their own.


  2. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 9:37 am:

    I read the BGA story twice, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be outraged about.

    Just read the Sun-Times edit. Still trying to figure out what my concern should be.

    What lazy thinking and writing. Apparently, if you’ve ever been engaged in the public arena at all, you’re now a suspect? Is that what passes for being a “watchdog” these days?

    What exactly is Roberts being accused of, anyway? The tone from both sources make him seem like a bad guy. I don’t see how he deserved it.

    The BGA under Shaw is a joke, just a scandal-mongering money machine, but I used to expect more from the Sun-Times.


  3. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 9:58 am:

    Wordslinger needs to read the story a third time, because apparently he missed the part about how Roberts’ law firm gets about $400,000 year in state business (who knows how much more in business referred to them by powerful state pols) and - surprise! - gives money to a slew of state legislators.

    “Apparently, if you’ve ever been engaged in the public arena at all, you’re now a suspect?”

    Yeah, WS, that’s all the BGA reported.

    There’s not a retired judge or ex-big-firm attorney in all of Illinois willing to be the state legislator watchdog? Then increase the salary until there is.


  4. - The Boy Blunder - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    This seems like quite a reach. Not everything is a scandal.


  5. - walker - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    Another disappointment from the BGA.

    Find me a smart lawyer, used to handling white collar and big money issues, who understands Illinois government, and you will send me someone who has contributed to Illinois campaigns, and knows people in government. The IG is the inside investigator, and we need some insider smarts to get the job done well.

    Save the outsider recruits for the US Atty jobs.


  6. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:08 am:

    Well said Word.


  7. - Befuddled - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    Yawn.


  8. - A guy... - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    Who is out there with appropriate qualifications who isn’t going to be perceived as having some conflict? I haven’t read anything that would indicate to me that he has a controlling bias in any direction. He’s been an equal opportunity service provider. He strikes me as being honest enough and secure enough to do an able job here. It doesn’t appear at his age that anyone can intimidate him in future endeavors. Let’s move on and see if he’ll get the job done.


  9. - Toure's Latte - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:25 am:

    Guy who works for everyone and contributes a little to everyone and does good work gets another gig. And that is this weeks outrage de jour.

    So what.


  10. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:30 am:

    Why even leave room for speculation or the appearance of possible conflict?

    There are smart people on the Commission. They should know better and they should have found someone else qualified who would not leave any possible impression of a conflict.

    This is not a scandal, but it is some boneheaded judgment that opens the door to many questions about independence and objectivity.

    Mr. Roberts may have been a qualified candidate, but he was certainly not the only well qualified candidate in the state. It sounds like their minds may have been made up before they began seeking candidates, as often happens in situations like this.


  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    LCD, you’re really on to something there.

    Tell me, which legislators sign off on state legal business contracts?


  12. - LincolnLounger - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    In the morass of state government and politics, I’ll take Bill Roberts and his integrity any day.

    They are way off base on this one.


  13. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    == Roberts personally donated $500 last year to the campaign fund of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission that approved Roberts’ appointment on May 30. ==

    Take this sentence, for example.

    Kirk Dillard rarely gives any reason to question his judgment or his motives. He is the about as far as you can imagine from being corrupt. He almost certainly recused himself or, imho, cast his vote on the basis of Mr. Roberts’ qualifications and not on the basis of some $500 contribution last year.

    From the story, it sounds like he did vote for Mr. Roberts. The roll call of that vote does not appear on the LEC’s website www.ilga.gov/commission/lec/ for verification.

    Someone could easily use this as an example to raise doubts about the ethics of the ethics commission, commission members, the vote and Mr. Roberts, even though Mr. Dillard may not have even realized Roberts contributed to him.

    As Chicago’s Legislative Inspector General explains in the article == The role of the IG is not only to be impartial but to appear to be impartial. ==

    This choice falls short of that standard in many ways.


  14. - downstate hack - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    Bill Roberts has no integrity problems and is honest and straight forward. The Sun Times raises a few valid points, but I think over did their stance.


  15. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    I’m not seeing the issue here. Sounds like the whole thing is overblown. But that doesn’t stop newspapers and others from dragging people’s names through the mud if it sells.


  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    Maybe Roberts wouldn’t have trouble with the BGA if Hinshaw had written Andy a fat check like all those other Chicago law firms.

    I don’t recall Andy having a problem when Ty was bad-mouthing the state to rating agencies while Mayer Brown had a $2 million contract for state bond work. Of course, Mayer Brown is a “major supporter” of BGA, according to its website. Probably a coincidence.

    And when it comes to honesty and integrity, maybe Andy can shine a light on how Les Crown came to serve on the BGA Civic Leadership Committee.

    Just how big a check does someone who copped in federal court to bribing state legislators have to write to get the BGA Goo-Goo Stamp of Approval?


  17. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 11:38 am:

    Mr/Ms Lake County Dem…could you tell us dopey readers whether 400K to a large from by the state with a $50 billion annual budget is a lot — like #1 — or not?
    The story was poorly done as is most of Handout Andy’s work, but to quote the IG magoo in Chicago as some sort of expert was really outrageous. We guess the BGA had some dark money contributor vying for the spot and they are seeking pay back.
    More disgraceful is that the Sun Times runs this slop from a dark money lobo group as if it is news. Funny they couldn’t con one their own “watchdogs” to slap their name on it?


  18. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    @wordslinger - You read my mind re: BGA’s law firm sponsors. I guess if this appointee is compromised because of his firm’s involvement in the political process then should we assume BGA is a sham good govt. organization because it took $25,000 from Clifford Law Offices this May, the same Clifford Law Offices that gave more than a half million to Rod Blagojevich during his crime spree in office?


  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    Wordslinger:

    That was awesome.

    You left without wondering aloud why the Sun-Times and every one else in Chicago journalism has given Shaw a free pass.


  20. - D.P.Gumby - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    Let us hope that Roberts has better sense than the OEIG that prosecuted the State Fair for $540 in beer tickets that were distributed to staff, volunteers, etc. Hard to say that is a “personal” gift. Another example of OEIG’s waste of time and money.


  21. - 4 percent - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Bill Roberts is one the most well-respected attorneys in Illinois and has the bonafide credentials to back it up. Andy and the BGA are looking for “gotcha” stories that make headlines to try and raise more money from their donors.

    There are a thousand possible stories and this is the one they highlight?


  22. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 3:51 pm:

    On this one BGA is absolutely right. Inspector General’s with good historical relationships with key power players don’t make good Inspector General’s. Give me a David Hoffman or a Joe Ferguson, not another happy, cozy lawyer.

    I said this on this board when the initial announcement was made and most here read me the riot act. Sorry guys, Roberts may be a fantastic lawyer with integrity and a really great guy, but that’s not what I want in my IGs.


  23. - whca1 - Tuesday, Jul 29, 14 @ 6:11 pm:

    I have known Bill Roberts for many years. He taught my wife in grade school. When he was US Attorney, I volunteered to buy him breakfast with me when doing some training. He declined saying it wouldn’t look right. Problem with Bill is he is probably the most ethical of anyone down there.


  24. - Lawyers Guns And Money Peoria Il - Wednesday, Jul 30, 14 @ 1:16 am:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog
    and was curious what all is needed to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% certain. Any suggestions or
    advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you


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