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Roberts out as BGA broadens focus to tinted windows

Monday, Jan 5, 2015

* Bill Roberts has resigned his job as legislative inspector general

“I accepted the position on an acting basis so I could see if it was something I wanted to do on a more permanent basis,” Roberts wrote in an email to Illinois Times. “For a variety of personal reasons I determined that it was not a job in which I wished to continue.”

Roberts took the job after Thomas Homer, the previous inspector general, left the post last spring. Before leaving, Homer called on lawmakers to approve tougher ethics measures, including provisions for stronger penalties for violations of ethics rules. Homer was the legislature’s first-ever inspector general and investigated more than 160 complaints, but just four reports of his investigations were made public during his ten-year tenure, and no legislator was fined for any violation of ethics rules. A commission of legislators decides what, if any, punishment should be meted out for violations of ethics rules. That same commission decides whether the inspector general can conduct an investigation in alleged violations and whether reports on investigations should be made public. […]

Last summer, the Better Government Association published a report noting that Roberts, a former U.S. attorney and Sangamon County state’s attorney who was once counsel to former Gov. Jim Edgar and now heads the law firm of Hinshaw Culbertson, has ties to lawmakers he was tasked with overseeing. Roberts once represented House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his law firm has collected nearly $2 million for legal work for state agencies in recent years. In addition, Hinshaw Culbertson has made campaign contributions to several legislators. Roberts served as counsel to House Republicans during impeachment proceedings against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009.

Roberts, a former US Attorney, is perhaps the most respected lawyer in Springfield. He only took the job after all four legislative leaders asked him to do so. He was never happy in the spot and was rightly irked by the BGA’s story.

* By the way, here’s the latest from the BGA

Government transparency is woefully inadequate in many public agencies — including the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, which over the past few years has been anything but forthcoming as we sought answers on potentially illegal patronage hiring.

Now IDOT is facing questions about a transparency matter of a different kind: Tinted windows on state vehicles.

Over the past few months, the Better Government Association has spotted IDOT trucks with darkened passenger- and driver-side windows, making it tough to see inside, and raising questions about motivations of the occupants.

Out of fairness, we should say we haven’t found anyone goofing off, but we did find that one of the IDOT trucks was apparently illegally tinted, and at least one more vehicle was tinted without the agency’s permission.

No tax money was used to tint the windows. Employees apparently did it on their own

An IDOT spokesman told us the two trucks we discovered with tinted glass are assigned to supervisors, and they’re on call for emergencies – such as accidents and weather problems.

The IDOT spokesman, Guy Tridgell, said the workers, not the taxpayers, paid for the window tinting.

“It looks like a small, unknown number elected to get some tinting done on their own. We understand this was primarily for security reasons” – protecting tools inside from theft – “and protection from sunlight during the summer,” Tridgell told us via email.

* It’s not clear whether the group’s new mascot was involved in the months-long Tintgate probe

The BGA has a new mascot? It’s elementary, my dear Watson!

At the BGA’s Annual Luncheon on Oct. 14, the BGA introduced Watson the Watchdog — our new “watchdog in chief” — to a crowd of nearly 1,000 supporters. It’s safe to say Watson stole the show and won the hearts of the crowd barking on command and shaking paws with BGA board member Jose Padilla.

The BGA is proud to partner with PAWS Chicago, the largest no-kill shelter in the Midwest, for this important addition to our organization.

Watson is an underdog who survived the streets of Chicago and escaped euthanasia, and the BGA is fighting for the underdogs across Illinois.

“The underdogs in our society are the most susceptible prey to government corruption, fraud, waste and abuse. They’re the ones that suffer the most when programs intended for them don’t deliver on the promises made,” Padilla said on stage. “These are the kind of individuals who can’t afford to have their tax dollars wasted, can’t afford to have their government programs disappoint them.”

These days Watson is learning new tricks everyday with the help of dedicated trainers at PAWS Chicago. You’ll see Watson making the rounds sniffing out waste and fraud in government and putting corrupt public officials in the doghouse.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments
  1. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:01 pm:

    BGA is peeking in truck windows? Sounds about right.

    What were you hoping to see, Andy?


  2. - Langhorne - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:02 pm:

    Bill knows the difference between chicken salad and chicken s**t. He wouldnt waste time going after someone for running copies of the superbowl pool. I have no doubt he would pursue any legit complaint. I wish him well.

    Reforms and improvements are definitely needed, tho.


  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:05 pm:

    Glad to see the BGA is shedding some light on the serious problems in state government, cracking down on problems and clearing things up.

    Like Roberts, if things don’t work out with Watson for some reason, I’d be honored to be considered for the post.

    I can’t promise it will be one joke after another, but it seems like the BGA has the joke department covered.

    -YDD


  4. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:08 pm:

    IDOT is a freaking mess.
    Although it has been the traditional patronage center for outgoing and incoming administrations, Rauner will need to show us that he can clean up IDOT’s cesspool of politically connected incompetents without filling it with his own.


  5. - Watson - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:11 pm:

    BGA: The state’s number one place to turn when the OEIG refuses to take up your trivial complaint against the coworker who stole your parking spot.


  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:18 pm:

    That Watson looks like a pitbull, a breed known for biting people for no good reason.


  7. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:19 pm:

    That’s not true Anonymous. Pits have to be trained to be aggressive.


  8. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    In the interests of transparency, I’m sure Andy won’t mind if I point out that Roberts firm, Hinshaw Culbertson, is not among the 20 or so bigfoot law firms listed as “major supporters” on the BGA website.

    Is that what you call “pay or get played?”

    Mayer Brown is a major supporter. I wonder if they make contributions to legislators, lol?

    I don’t recall Andy kicking up a fuss when Mayer Brown had a $2 million contract as state bond counsel while partner Ty was bragging about trying to get the state’s bond rating downgraded to leverage his pension-dumping schemes.

    That doesn’t sound all that ethical to me. I wonder what Watson thinks?


  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:24 pm:

    Cheryl44,

    My mistake. I’d imagine they need house breaking, too.


  10. - foster brooks - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    BGA: The state’s number one place to turn when the OEIG refuses to take up your trivial complaint against the coworker who stole your parking spot. so true seen it many times lol


  11. - Ahoy! - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:39 pm:

    Is the BGA becoming the IPI with their bad and bias “journalism?”


  12. - Michael Westen - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    Has anyone noticed the dearth of BGA stories about problems in the Emanuel Administration? Wonder if it has to do with BGA donors also being Emanuel donors. Just sayin’.


  13. - MAK - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:47 pm:

    And are we all complying with 625 ILCS 5/12-503?


  14. - Soccermom - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:49 pm:

    It will be interesting to see how the BGA responds to the Rauner Administration. I believe that Mr. Rauner was a major contributor, was he not?


  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:50 pm:

    Wow. Tinted windows. Stop the presses. That’s pretty pathetic if that’s what they are focusing on.


  16. - Downstate Greg - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 12:58 pm:

    How about the hundreds of State cars driven home every night by IDOT office personell and filled with taxpayer gas?? Most of these people never do ANY field work. Why not look into that Andy??


  17. - Commonsense in Illinois - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:01 pm:

    MAK is correct…adding tinting of any kind to the drivers or passenger side windows (front seat) is illegal under current statute. So, not only are they defacing state property, they have also rendered the vehicle unsafe to drive. Memo to DOT press…might want to check the statutes before trying to trivialize something, you know, just to be sure.


  18. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:04 pm:

    Thank you, Andy Shaw, BGA, and let’s not forget the Sun-Times for tackling this glaring problem.

    Chris Fusco, look out!


  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:04 pm:

    ===adding tinting of any kind to the drivers or passenger side windows (front seat) is illegal ===

    No, it’s not.


  20. - Michael Westen - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:10 pm:

    I heard BGA is working on their next blockbuster story-three IDOT workers were spotted jaywalking. The horror.


  21. - Observation - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:29 pm:

    What is with the mascot thing?


  22. - Sir Reel - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:34 pm:

    Downstate Greg, in theory State employees with assigned vehicles are supposed to pay for their commuting. However in my experience what they pay doesn’t cover the actual per mile cost.

    The larger issue is who gets assigned vehicles and what they’re used for. In my former agency senior management were routinely given assigned vehicles whether they needed them or not. Many employees with assigned vehicles used them for non work purposes.

    Fixing this abuse won’t solve the State’s budget problem but it’s indicative of the fact that there is still waste and abuse to be found in State government.

    Maybe Rauner can make a dent in this type of waste and abuse. Then I’d feel better about a tax increase and or more cuts.


  23. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:35 pm:

    Has the BGA gone from whistleblower to dog whistle blower?


  24. - Gone, but not forgotten - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:35 pm:

    The big picture, through tinted or non-tinted windows, is that our tax dollars are being wasted! IDOT has the highest paid Highway Maintainers in the country. The management staff are all in the $100,000 club. Instead of ensuring that every roadway is pothole-free, litter-free and hazard-free, these high-paid individuals are freeloading. Each time they ignore rules and laws, time is spent on investigations rather than on the roadways. The time that they spend thinking about, discussing and performing their abuses is State time, paid with our tax dollars. What may seem trivial, is not when you look at the big picture of hundreds of employees performing at this low level.


  25. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:45 pm:

    @Gone

    Bitter much? Sheesh.

    ==hundreds of employees performing at this low leve==

    If you’ve got evidence of these “hundreds” of employees then provide it. Otherwise you’re just a blowhard who has some ax to grind. It’s easy to throw out platitudes and generalizations. Back it up or shut up. And no I don’t work for IDOT.


  26. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    == the workers, not the taxpayers, paid for the window tinting ==

    Window tinting is a minor thing. A larger question might be: why would anyone make modifications to property they do not own without permission from the property owner?

    The public should not react like this is a major crisis, and the public employees should not be treating public property like it is personal property. Give a verbal warning to those involved, send an email to state employees warning them to be more careful, and maybe discipline the next person. This is not a major story, but it is good to know someone is watching for these things if the state itself is not.


  27. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 1:53 pm:

    Coming soon, part 2 of this groundbreaking story by the BGA: who spilled ketchup on the seat?


  28. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 2:01 pm:

    How should one feel about BGA?

    Some of their stuff is foolishness.

    Some of it is partisan (the endorsement of Forrest Claypool).

    Some of it is partisanship pretending to be good government.

    And sometimes the BGA gets a story that is meaty and has import.

    BGA doesn’t have a very sophisticated understanding of corruption. BGA devotes far too much time to chasing after stuff that was a problem when Andy Shaw and his donors were teenagers and in their 20s than on the big corruption issues facing government today.

    Plus, Andy Shaw’s desire to court big donors has left the BGA looking like something between the PR op of the country club Republicans and the Civic Federation.


  29. - Soccermom - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 2:11 pm:

    I mean really. This is the worst thing that happens at IDOT or its contractors? Tinted windows? Sheesh.

    Hey Andy Shaw. Here’s a tip for you. One IDOT contractor hired a friend’s son to show the IDOT folks where to test the asphalt to make sure it met the standard. This was an important job, as all the other locations did NOT meet the standard. Of course, that’s no big deal. It just means that the road surfaces don’t hold up, so the contractor gets to do it again in a few years.

    As opposed to those tinted windows, which apparently are forever.

    And not for nothin, but wouldn’t tinted windows reduce air conditioning costs and fuel consumption?


  30. - Skeptic - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 2:20 pm:

    “why would anyone make modifications to property they do not own without permission” You’ve never hung a picture on a wall? Or painted some or all of your apartment? Changed a light fixture?


  31. - Gooner - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 2:24 pm:

    I don’t have tinted windows, but I suspect that they may add some comfort to people who are driving around all day. If you are keeping some light and heat out it might make things feel better.

    Which brings us to the interesting timing of this — is it really a good idea to bash these guys over something trivial in the winter when 1) their jobs can be very difficult; and 2) we all rely upon them?

    Running the piece seems like poor judgment by both the BGA and the Sun Times. On the eve of a storm, they may want to forget about a few windows and just say thanks.


  32. - 4 percent - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 2:37 pm:

    I can’t wait for the BGA to investigate who broke Tim Mapes’ rule by bringing a hidden drink or food on the House floor. Impeach!


  33. - low level - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 4:07 pm:

    The BGA is quickly making themselves a joke.

    I’m remembering last year the “expose” on government workers circulating petitions for candidates….

    On their OWN time, mind you. The BGA was suggesting they be prevented from doing so, which to my understanding would be a Shakman / Rutan violation in reverse. Preventing government employees from freely associating with candidates or political parties of their choice.


  34. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 5:30 pm:

    Watson, meet Squeezy. Squeezy, Watson.


  35. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 5:30 pm:

    == You’ve never hung a picture on a wall? Or painted some or all of your apartment? Changed a light fixture? ==

    Not in a publicly owned office space without permission. And never any alterations that would cost even more public money to undo, like restoring the walls of a state office after I unilaterally paint them a different color or fixing any unauthorized modifications on my state owned car.

    It is the property of the state of Illinois, not mine. I would, and have, always gotten permission for that sort of stuff first. Even before hanging a picture up that would leave a new nail hole in the wall.


  36. - Streator Curmudgeon - Monday, Jan 5, 15 @ 7:26 pm:

    At one time, adding tinting to the driver’s side of a passenger vehicle WAS illegal in Illinois. The Legislature then amended that law to allow a “percentage” of tinting. I think it’s now 50 percent.

    It’s still too much. If you’re a law enforcement officer making a traffic stop at night, you can’t see who the driver is or what they are doing.

    It’s dangerous for police. I wonder what lobbying group got the law changed?


  37. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jan 6, 15 @ 12:13 am:

    The BGA isn’t interested in better government, it is interested in making it look like they are interested in better government, None of their employees gets involved in heavy-duty policy or issues, instead they find something simple that is easy to understand and they exploit it to the fullest.


  38. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jan 6, 15 @ 12:16 am:

    Where is Susan Garrett when you need her?!?!


  39. - Roosevelt - Tuesday, Jan 6, 15 @ 7:36 am:

    Has someone at the BGA figured out how to get a tax write off on a dog?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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