* 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.