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State avoids contempt citation… for now

Tuesday, Sep 1, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

A U.S. judge has cited Illinois’ efforts in recent days to make court-ordered payments to social-service providers in deciding not to hold the state in contempt.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled at a Tuesday hearing in Chicago focused on services for the disabled. Coleman raised the prospect of a contempt finding last week after Illinois missed a deadline for certain payments as the state budget standoff continues.

A plaintiffs’ attorney, Barry Taylor, told Coleman that Illinois is now “making a good-faith effort.” But he and other attorneys also said court pressure had worked.

Coleman says she’ll entertain another contempt motion if the state falters again on payments.

* Sun-Times

While there are ongoing budget issues facing the state, Coleman said she wasn’t getting in the middle of it. “This court is not going to allow political wrangling,” affect her decisions, she said.

Still, Coleman tweaked the comptroller’s office for not flagging a cash-flow issue when it failed to comply with her order to pay services for the severely developmentally disabled by Aug. 21.

“That was disturbing to the court,” she said.

* Tribune

On Tuesday, Coleman scolded the state for previously failing “to explain the difficulty they were having in a timely way,” saying the legal wrangling over the payments “cost a lot of time, effort, trees.”

Coleman said she was satisfied that “every attempt has been made to try to cooperate,” and instructed the two sides to draft an order that would allow a court monitor to keep track of the payments to make sure the state complies with her order.

…Adding… From Ed McManus…

Attorneys for the state and lawyers representing Illinois residents with developmental disabilities finally made peace today in federal court in Chicago.

The disability lawyers had proposed that state officials be held in contempt of court for failing to make payments to provider agencies. But the state now says it is making the payments, and the contempt idea has been dropped.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman indicated she was upset with remarks by Comptroller Leslie Munger that she doesn’t like being governed by a court. Coleman said Munger needs to realize that she must comply with federal court consent decrees–specifically the Ligas decree, which protects the rights of people with developmental disabilities. An attorney for Munger quickly assured Coleman that Munger “never intended to be critical of your role.”

Ed McManus, a Wilmette-based consultant who represents many of the providers, said his agencies are breathing a sigh of relief. “Most of them have now been paid or apparently are about to be paid, and that’s great. But it’s really inexcusable that the state administration dragged its feet for all this time–since July 1–while these providers were scraping by, cutting their employees’ hours, and paying interest to banks to borrow money the state should have been paying them. The State of Illinois needs to wake up and start doing much better in providing care to our most vulnerable residents.”

Attorney Barry Taylor of Equip for Equality, representing the plaintiffs in the Ligas case, said it has now been agreed that the court-appointed monitor in the case, Ronnie Cohn, will act as a conduit for any providers that still have issues. The agencies were instructed to contact her with problems, Taylor said, and she will work with the state to correct them.

Taylor expressed concern about an announcement the Department of Human Services made last week that it is no longer making expedited payments to the smaller providers. Judge Coleman stressed that she has previously ordered that the expedited payment process be continued.

The state said all payments to ICFDDs for FY15 were processed and sent to the comptroller last night, so those payments should be made soon.

…Adding More… From the comptroller…

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger released the following statement Tuesday in response to a Federal Court’s denial of a motion to hold the state in contempt of court over payments tied to the Ligas Consent Decree impacting services for people with developmental disabilities:

“I am grateful to the Court for recognizing that our office has done, and will continue to do, everything in its power to ensure that the state’s budget shortfall does not impact payment for services for people with developmental disabilities.

“Since being sworn into office eight months ago, I have made payments for those serving our most vulnerable my top priority. Long before I assumed public office, I spent years volunteering for an organization serving the intellectually and developmentally disabled - and I saw firsthand the pain that is caused when the state does not meet its obligations in a timely fashion. As the state’s Chief Fiscal Officer, I have made it my mission to ensure that other organizations do not face similar hardship.

“I have traveled the state meeting with nonprofit and social service providers in recent months, and whether I’m in Rockford or East St. Louis, the message is the same: to truly bring relief to those serving our most vulnerable, Illinois must pass a balanced budget.”

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14 Comments
  1. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 1:32 pm:

    How unfair this is to the Comptroller’s Office.

    If Munger can walk back some of the closeness to Rauner she spoke, here is the window to do it.


  2. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 1:35 pm:

    So if she held them in contempt then what? Who’s court order, federal legal requirement, or consent decree does she deem overruled in order to make these payments?


  3. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 1:48 pm:

    Power abhors a vacuum.

    In the absence of the executive branch engaging the GA in the budget procress, judges are now running the show, concocting a wildly out of balance budget and riding herd on the comptroller as to who gets paid first.

    Might be time for the executive branch to get into the ballgame.

    The problem gets worse and harder to solve every day.


  4. - AC - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 2:04 pm:

    “I’ve been a success at everything I’ve done.” - Bruce Rauner

    “proud to be here as the governor’s wingman, so to speak, on the budget issues” - Leslie Munger


  5. - Mama - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 2:14 pm:

    “Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman indicated she was upset with remarks by Comptroller Leslie Munger that she doesn’t like being governed by a court. Coleman said Munger needs to realize that she must comply with federal court consent decrees–specifically the Ligas decree, which protects the rights of people with developmental disabilities.” She sounds like Rauner, ‘Laws don’t apply to me.’


  6. - Tournaround Agenda - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 2:19 pm:

    @Wingman: If you don’t like being governed by a court, tell the governor to drop the anti-union demands and pass a balanced budget.


  7. - Juvenal - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 2:43 pm:

    === in response to a Federal Court’s denial of a motion to hold the state in contempt ===

    It sounds to me like the plaintiffs withdrew their motion.


  8. - Norseman - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 2:48 pm:

    Willy, I agree that this situation is unfair to the office, but Munger is getting what she asked for. She’s picking up and putting down the rhetoric being spewed by her benefactor. You’re right that she should take this opportunity to back it down. She won’t! She needs Rauner’s money and campaign help.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    - Norseman -

    I know you are right. I know it. I know the backing of the Turnaround Agenda in a presser, and the “wingman” comment help cement the relationship between the two. I know it.

    If it were me?

    I’d put out a release, indicating the displeasure of the office being in a position that the requirements by statute, and the payments by court order are not the way a government should function, and… there needs to be a signed budget for Illinois.

    And. Leave. It. There.

    These are campaign/political issues under the mirage of running parallel with the requirements/duties of the job.

    Why embrace the mirage?


  10. - Capitol View - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    there will be no balanced budget without some movement on revenues generating.


  11. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 3:34 pm:

    – As the state’s Chief Fiscal Officer…–

    There ya go. That’s the actual, independent, gig.

    Not Wingman for the governor in hostage-taking pursuits of a political agenda.

    They’re not the same. Not even close.


  12. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 6:44 pm:

    To the Comptroller Press Shop,

    So much better than a few short days ago.

    Well done.

    OW


  13. - Working For Free - Tuesday, Sep 1, 15 @ 8:58 pm:

    If funding one program for Illinoisans with disabilities is the outcome of Munger supporting her “top priority” population, I would hate to be a state contractor working in one of her low priority programs. There are still countless programs serving children and adults with disabilities waiting for payment.


  14. - Roscoe Tom - Wednesday, Sep 2, 15 @ 12:23 am:

    Jump girl!
    How High, boss?


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