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Another day, another investigation

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006

It never ends.

Illinois Auditor General William Holland said Tuesday he will forward to state and federal investigators a scathing audit accusing state transportation officials of mismanagement and questionable spending for public relations and minority recruitment on the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project.

Holland’s audit of the Illinois Department of Transportation, first detailed by the Tribune, questioned nearly $500,000 in expenses and billings by politically connected advertising firms dealing with community outreach, as well as an additional $200,000 for minority support and employment in the early stages of the project.

The audit also questioned the effectiveness of recruiting minority and female workers for the project. In the last half of 2005, the state paid $348,000 to Target Group for equal-employment opportunity support, but the firm recruited only five workers, auditors said. Holland also questioned $150,000 in payments to the firm, saying it lacked backup documentation. […]

Instead of a normal procedure in which a selection panel ranks potential contractors, auditors said they discovered an e-mail indicating that Robin Black, formerly IDOT’s chief of staff, played a major role in how E.Morris Communications and Universal MazJac Enterprises Inc. were scored.

“After my discussions with Robin, this is what I came up with for points. Does this look OK?” John Werthwein, an operations analysis manager in IDOT’s bureau of budget and fiscal management, wrote to three selection panel members in an e-mail obtained by auditors. Black was a member of the selection panel, but Werthwein was not.

The full report can be found on this page.

The Sun-Times has more.

While awaiting an appointment at the Capitol, IDOT Secretary Tim Martin declined to answer any questions about Holland’s audit without a spokesman present, saying there was no one there to protect his “interests.” […]

Holland questioned a $3,494 IDOT payment to Ashley for Morrow’s health insurance premiums. There were numerous instances when the state was overbilled for Morrow’s services, including last March when he submitted time sheets reflecting 66 hours of Ashley work. IDOT was billed for 152 hours at a cost of $4,539.

Ashley submitted a $26 voucher to the state to cover a half-hour conversation Morrow had with a firm concerning tax appeals and low-interest loan programs — issues that did not appear to have anything to do with work notifying the public about the Dan Ryan and Kingery projects.

Ashley sought a $105 reimbursement for an employee who spent two hours of her time attending a “Women in Transportation Dinner” honoring former IDOT chief of staff Robin Black, who resigned last year.

The company also submitted more than $25,000 in questionable billings for the purchase of promotional items and involvement in the Billiken parade and $220 in billings for 1,080 custom tattoos that Holland said were shipped to the office of Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd).

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Roy Slade - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 8:06 am:

    And let the fun begin. This is the first of six or seven audits that will reflect our current governor (and his merry band of thieves) philosophy of government. Have we not learned anything yet?

  2. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 8:26 am:

    I read the entire OAG report and was amazed. Wow! It’s clear from the report that there were some people in that agency doing some highly questionable things. I didn’t say criminal, as this must be investigated fully, but certainly the possibility and appearance of contract fraud is obvious.

  3. - DOWNSTATE - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 8:30 am:

    I was told right before the primary that several audits were coming out and none would be pleasant.I did not know if the person whom I was talking to knew what he was talking about or not.Well here is one so maybe there is more.HUH?

  4. - SalukiDog - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 8:56 am:

    I was talking with someone about this stuff last night. One of my biggest problems with this administration (which we knew would happen) is the failure to live up to the bar you set for everyone else. Instead, it’s as if they are thumbing their noses at the people and the feds.

  5. - Randall Sherman - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 9:04 am:

    It’s a pity that more of these revalations did not come out before the Primary, or even better, back in the fall, before potential Gubernatorial Primary challengers opted out of the race against Rod.

  6. - IDOT PRO - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 10:41 am:

    And Ms. Black left because she was “burned out” from the stress of her job. She also was offered a better paying job. Yea sure!

    Mr. Holland, great job….Bring It On!!!!

  7. - Save a Horse Ride a Harley - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 2:00 pm:

    Who is Ms. Black’s husband? Who does he work for? Connect the dots and you will see that this goes further than just IDOT. It reaches into the democratic leadership of the Senate and my guess all with Elvis himselvis office. Ms. Black ruled just as the man who put her there does. Kings and queens do not have to play by any rules because they run the kingdom. Their kingdom at IDOT smells and the FEDS WILL INDICT BEFORE THE ELECTION, bank on it. My sources say when she announced she was leaving at an upper management meeting there was APPLAUSE. The entire state will applaud on Elvis himselvis is gone.

  8. - REFORMCHILDSUPPORT - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 4:52 pm:

    The next investigation should be into why the Governor’s Office illegally changed the name of the Illinois Department of Public Aid to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

    The IDPA’s audit doesn’t look good either especially when the Auditor General continues to use IDPA in its audit because the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is not the legal name for IDPA.

    Why did the OOG change the name of IDPA and why didn’t they legally go through the legislature?

  9. - ONE M.C.M.A.D - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 5:08 pm:

    Check it out for yourself:
    Department of Public Aid
    (Summary Report Digest)
    (Financial Audit and Compliance Examination - Full Report)

    Also, on March 9, 2006, the Illinois Attorney General in case # 05L004617 pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County entered into an agreed order with the plaintiff admitting that the name of IDPA had been changed to Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. There is no reason given for the name change or why it was done illegally.

    And now the Illinois Attorney General will be faced with questions about the name change as she is obviously aware and has taken no actions to discontinue the illegal actions of the Office of the Governor in changing the name of IDPA to IDHFS without legislature approval.

    There is no press release (search the Gov’s website on or around July 1, 2005) and no bill in sight to legally change the name. Neither did the IDPA’s Director hold a press conference or issue a press release. Huh!!!!!!!!

    When will this investigation began? How about now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. - Dozer Driver - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 9:45 pm:

    Isn’t this Ashley agency the same one that did a bunch of expensive advertising work for the Lottery last year on “urban consumer outreach” (A euphemism for selling more lottery tickets in poor black neighborhoods), and they got in trouble because they couldn’t prove anything was done to earn the money? If I remember right, they lost the chance to do more Lottery work after that, nice to see IDOT was handy to give them a lift. What does the Board of Elections web site say about their campaign donations again?

    Heck, give ME 10 percent of that money they threw away, I will buy air time on the Chicago radio stations for an ad that tells people about the highway contruction, and I will buy interview spots on the drive-time talk radio to discuss it with the jocks and their listeners calling-in. I would publish a simple web site with a map, updating calendar, and alternate route suggestions on it, and tell newspapers and reporters about it… I might even put up flyers at gas station pumps near the affected interchanges… that will be a quarter million dollars please!

    Whew! I’m bushed! Advertising “outreach” is SO HARD!

  11. - Papa Legba - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 10:08 pm:

    I can’t wait for the audit of DCEO comes out. It should be a dandy. With the amount of money that comes and goes through that agency is enormous. It is their job to shove money out the door. When I was there, I saw lots of goofy things. Wow!

  12. - Dragon - Wednesday, Mar 29, 06 @ 11:00 pm:

    One wonders if the trail leads to Mr. Martin and his Directors. One thing for sure the Black community should send a loud message to the “Gov” that they are tired seeing high paying jobs go to out of state workers and tired of being lied to. The solution isn’t closing the Dan Ryan but making sure we send a message on election day we in the black community are tired of being treated with such disrespect. Why is it that Mr. Martin is allowed to lie to us. November is just around the corner

  13. - anon - Thursday, Mar 30, 06 @ 8:16 am:

    I heard rev. meeks say on a radio show this week that the black community has not received dollars from the dan ryan project but the president of danielle ashley is a prominent member of his church. I wonder how much influence he had over her getting all of this taxpayer money. Maybe if his church members would spend the public’s dollars appropriately we would have his “billion” dollars for education. I may not support Governor rod on everything but I can smell a rat with the reverend/senator. We need to be looking into his history for what has he done for black people!

  14. - Aunt Ruthy - Thursday, Mar 30, 06 @ 5:11 pm:

    I believe this is just the tip for IDOT. There has been nothing good since the development of the new division of Office of Business and Workforce Development they have one high paid director and 3 Deputy’s heck even the division of Highways only has 1 Deputy,There has been nothing but scandals since this division was developed is any one paying attention? it is just a scandal.and by the way who was the 1 lady other than Ms. Black who checked all those bills? Oh thats right she was transferred last week to Aeronautics as the new DBE coordinar
    what a joke.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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