Part 1 comes from the Tribune:
Following two scolding reviews, Illinois must repay $7.7 million in federal funds because of a litany of problems in running a federal job retraining program.
The program is supposed to match workers with training that will help them find new positions quickly after they have lost their jobs to foreign competition.
But the federal reviews found that Illinois officials seemed to ignore schedules and procedures established to make sure workers were not sitting by idly when they could be in retraining programs.
Reviewers found the state took as long as 16 months to approve training plans. Files lacked basic information, such as workers’ educational backgrounds and previous job duties, according to the reports.
And Part 2 is from the Sun-Times:
Pink slips have been handed to two East Coast law firms that made hefty political donations to Gov. Blagojevich and were placed on a preferred list for Illinois pension work.
This month’s vote by the state Teachers’ Retirement System to overhaul the way it hires lawyers for class-action cases followed a Chicago Sun-Times report in September.
That story detailed how federal authorities have been probing Blagojevich’s visits with the two firms during trips to New York in 2003. It also said Blagojevich’s interaction with a third law firm once employed by TRS also is under federal scrutiny. […]
Nonetheless, “We believe that all of our vendor selections should be made strictly on the basis of merit and suitability for the particular work assignment,” said Jon Bauman, TRS’ executive director. “In this particular situation, the campaign contributions … had the effect of placing a cloud over a number of the firms that were eventually selected.”
Bauman, however, stressed that the contributions were not the only factor in the TRS board’s decision to dismantle the preferred list, which also included three law firms not connected to the governor’s New York trips. The fact that none of the firms had brought a successful class-action case on behalf of TRS in three years weighed heavily, he said.