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Grand jury subpoenas Lavin’s e-mails

Monday, Aug 25, 2014

* Tribune

A federal grand jury subpoenaed emails of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s former chief of staff and two other onetime top aides as a criminal probe into a botched $54.5 million anti-violence grant program continues ahead of the November election.

The subpoenas, disclosed by the Quinn administration in response to a Tribune open records request, shows the grand jury asking the state for the emails of Jack Lavin, who served as Quinn’s chief operating officer and later as his chief of staff until departing state government last September.

The July 28 subpoenas were requested by Timothy Bass, an assistant U.S. attorney in Springfield who has prosecuted government grant fraud cases. In May, Bass used a subpoena to request the emails of five other key players in the anti-violence program, including the now-retired aide who ran it for Quinn. […]

Also subpoenaed were the emails of Billy Ocasio, a former 26th Ward alderman who served as Quinn’s senior adviser on social justice issues. Ocasio, who worked for the Illinois Housing Development Authority after Quinn’s election, left state government last year.

In addition to the emails of top Quinn advisers, a separate subpoena seeks all records from the state Department of Human Services involving any anti-violence program in which the agency worked with the former Illinois Violence Prevention Authority or the current Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

* The Sun-Times has the Quinn response

A Quinn spokesman said the records being sought by prosecutors are records the governor’s office already was asked to provide to the Legislative Audit Commission as part of its ongoing probe spurred by a February audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative by state Auditor General William Holland.

“The governor has zero tolerance for any mismanagement and took decisive action to fix the problems long ago,” Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said Saturday, repeating the stance Quinn has taken since the first word of the NRI probes. “The program has been shut down for nearly two years, we enacted legislation that would make Illinois a national leader for grant oversight, and the governor has ordered all state agencies to fully support any inquiries. If any grantee has done anything wrong, they should be held fully accountable.”

* Rauner in the Trib

At a downtown news conference, Rauner sought to link his call for term limits to a grand jury probe of Quinn’s $54.5 million anti-violence grant program as well as a new watchdog report questioning Quinn administration hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“Illinois is suffering so badly under our career politicians with massive corruption and massive failure to improve the quality of life for the families of our state,” said Rauner […]

“This goes right to the heart of Quinn’s administration…You can’t get any more close to Pat Quinn personally that Jack Lavin,” Rauner said.

He’s probably right about that last point. Lavin was Quinn’s deputy treasurer, then was the governor’s chief operating officer before moving up to chief of staff. He also worked for Tony Rezko and did a stint at DCEO under Blagojevich. But he survived both of those gigs without a single blemish.

^ Quinn’s response to Rauner in the Trib

Later, Quinn said the Rauner “doesn’t have any credibility at all when it comes to ethics,” a reference to problems at some companies that GTCR, the wealthy Rauner’s former equity firm, had invested in. “So I don’t pay any attention to him when he talks about that issue,” Quinn said.

* Greg Hinz gets the last word

Mr. Quinn says he cleaned up the program when he heard of the problems — just like he’s now abolished the position of “staff assistant” at IDOT and fired those still on the payroll.

But that’s not going to keep the grand jury from doing its thing. Nor may it stop General Assembly panels from resuming their own review after mid-October. (Prosecutors asked the Legislature to hold off until then lest the federal probe be compromised.)

Even more important, the issue is back on Page 1, and Mr. Rauner likely will be able to keep it there. In the same way that I’ve challenged Mr. Rauner to take responsibility for some of the mess-ups that occurred in companies owned by his former investment company, GTCR LLC, it’s fair to ask Mr. Quinn to take responsibility for what occurred on his watch.

Pat Quinn would much rather be talking about what he sees as a recovering economy and “billionaire Bruce Rauner.” But if the past few days are any indication, another subject is going to be on the agenda, too.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


23 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:34 am:

    Grand jury investigations are the gift that keeps on coming.


  2. - RNUG - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:38 am:

    Not the first time that State emails have been gone through looking for wrongdoing. I know it was done by law enforcement under at least one previous administration quite a few years back. They may or may not find a smoking gun, but there will be questionable stuff just because people don’t worry about what they put in an email.

    Not good news for Quinn, especially if all the results are made public before the election.


  3. - Skeptic Cal - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    Rauner is wasting his breath on term limits. Corruption is not stopped by term limits. Prison might stop term limits. If I were on his campaign team I would talk about criminal activity and the history of governors going to prison. See if that sticks?


  4. - A guy... - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    Nothing to add to what Slinger said. The hits just keep on comin’.


  5. - 47th Ward - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    Step one, subpoena the e-mails. Step two, read the e-mails. Step three, decide if anything in the e-mails is incriminating.

    This is only step one. The Tribune should remember that all of us are innocent until the feds indict us.


  6. - W.S. Walcott - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:45 am:

    If one is maybe tipee-toeing into the gray area of politics and policy, why are they using state email accounts? One would think they’d have figured that out by now…


  7. - Been There - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 9:51 am:

    ===If one is maybe tipee-toeing into the gray area of politics and policy, why are they using state email accounts? One would think they’d have figured that out by now… ====
    You would think. I can’t imagine Lavin not being careful about using email. On the other hand there is not much you can do if someone emails you. And words can be taken out of context. Sometimes the old fashion face to face is better (off of state property of course).


  8. - Chicago Publius - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    I’d be worried that the grand jury inquiry will lead into other areas — as they usually do — including those areas where Lavin installed his proxies when he was in the Gov’s office, including the Toll Highway Authority, the Finance Authority, and DCEO.


  9. - Downstate Illinois - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    “The governor has zero tolerance for any mismanagement…” yet he stood up beside the felonious Rod as his running mate. Quinn’s character may be questionable, but at least he took good notes.


  10. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:10 am:

    == I can’t imagine Lavin not being careful about using email. ==

    iirc, it has been reported that Lavin was cc’d on at least one email which involves a possible question of clout and the distribution of these funds.

    He forwarded the email from his state email to his personal email, and there is no indication yet of what or how he replied from his personal account. It sure would be interesting to see what his reply, if any, was.


  11. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    Substantively it’s hard to know if there’s a there there with Jack’s emails. Politically, it’s a huge problem. Just more material for the negative ad campaign and edit boards.


  12. - Lincoln Lad - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Wouldn’t they just get the same emails already provided to the audit commission? If there was a smoking gun, wouldn’t we know it already?


  13. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    FKA:
    1) Just because he was cc’d on an email doesn’t mean diddly. Anyone can cc anyone after all.
    2) “grand jury asking the state for the emails of Jack Lavin” How is the State going to provide records from his personal email?


  14. - Cassandra - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    Lavin is obviously no dummy and I find it hard to believe he would put anything incriminating in a state e-mail. The e-mail that comes back to bite you is a well established peril of the modern workplace, public or private.


  15. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    Skeptic

    1) Agreed. == there is no indication yet of what or how he replied from his personal account ==
    2) Obviously. == It sure would be interesting to see what his reply, if any, was. ==

    Unless some sort of logic-defining way exists to view one’s “personal” emails via their “state” emails, the investigation would have to gain access to his personal emails in order to view any possible “smoking gun” relating to state business that originates from his personal email account.


  16. - RNUG - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    You can be smart with your own email but you can’t stop dummies from sending stupid stuff to you.


  17. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 10:52 am:

    Will this subpoena result in a request for the LAC to postpone their October hearing?


  18. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    @RNUG - exactly. His reply, if any, could very well have been “Don’t ever cc me on anything like this again. What is wrong with you?”

    People can send you anything. It is not what they send you that matters, but how you reply to it that does.


  19. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    “how you reply to it that does.” That’s an interesting question. I see five scenarios:
    A) He replies to the note from his State account
    B) He immediately ignores and/or deletes the note from his State account
    C) He replies with “Don’t ever send me this again” and then ignores/deletes the note
    D) He replies with “Don’t ever send me this again” and then forwards it to his personal account to handle; or
    E) He forwards it without comment to his personal account to handle.

    Clearly (A) gets him hot water, (B) does not. But in (C), (D) or (E) I could see a lawyer twisting his way around whether that’s “acting” on the note or not and hence bad news. Can a legal expert clarify?


  20. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    If Paulie hated phones, Paulie really would have hated emails.

    A Grand Jury…ain’t no Dopey commission. This is bad optics to say the barest of minimums.

    “Friends talk to each other. They don’t email or telephone. Friends also hug. Now, what do you want to talk about…”

    Yikes.


  21. - Sue - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    Does anyone remember the Fed investigation leading up to the 1998 Governor’s election as the Feds were circling around the Secretary of State’s office- Ryan was not yet a subject but his confidants were falling like dominos. Too soon to say if this mess will eventually make its way to Quinn but talk about lousy judgment in terms of hiring Jack Lavin to be Chief of Staff. One has to ask why in the name of God would you bring Tony Rezko into your inner circle by hiring Lavin. Quinn deserves this mess- he caused it


  22. - Skeptic - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    Dust off your keyboard macro. CTRL+ATL+G = “The Governor has not been charged with any wrong-doing.”


  23. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Aug 25, 14 @ 3:37 pm:

    skeptic - that’s also an interesting question you pose in your follow-up. It is easy to see a lawyer trying to turn just about any of those into some sort of nefarious situation, isn’t it?

    Sometimes things get twisted by others, even when you’re trying to do the right thing.


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