* Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney at WBEZ…
A top cabinet official in Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration tendered his resignation this weekend.
The departure of state Agriculture Secretary John Sullivan is apparent fallout from last week’s WBEZ report about a former lobbyist’s email that defended a state worker facing disciplinary accusations for having stayed silent about “the rape in Champaign.”
More to come.
…Adding… All-staff email from Jeremy Flynn, Chief of Staff…
Effective yesterday, Director Sullivan resigned his position leading the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Effective immediately, I will be serving as Acting Director for the Department.
The accomplishments over the last year are many and I know we will continue the mission of the Department. I appreciate everything you do to serve Illinois’ number one industry.
*** UPDATE 1 *** From the Pritzker administration…
Governor Pritzker sought and accepted Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan’s resignation this weekend. Director Sullivan had a long and productive public service career as a State Senator, and the Governor is grateful for his willingness to serve in the administration. Director Sullivan put together an outstanding team at the Department of Agriculture, and as a result, the Department’s work thrived.
However, the Governor holds all state employees to the highest ethical standards, and the Governor requested the Director’s resignation because he is disturbed that then-Senator Sullivan became aware of the existence of the July 31, 2012 email contemporaneously, and did not handle it appropriately, including not alerting the inspector general or other authorities.
The Governor’s general counsel has shared all of the information she learned from Director Sullivan with the Office of the Executive Inspector General and offered to share this information with all law enforcement agencies looking into this situation. The administration will continue to assist in the ongoing investigation.
Sullivan is from the Quincy area and represented Mike McClain’s hometown for years.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From former Director Sullivan…
This past weekend, Governor Pritzker’s General Counsel notified me that an August 2012 email from Mike McClain to Governor Quinn’s staff referenced my name as state senator and McClain’s advocacy on behalf of my constituent, Forrest Ashby.
That information led me to conduct a review of my own personal emails from that same period of time. My search discovered a forwarded copy of McClain’s July 31, 2012 email reported by WBEZ. I shared this information with Governor Pritzker’s General Counsel.
The summer of 2012 was a stressful time for me. I was in the middle of a state senate reelection campaign, as well as preparing for and undergoing cancer surgery in Baltimore, MD. I was already well aware of McClain’s efforts to keep me informed of his advocacy on behalf of Ashby, and l simply did not read the entire forwarded email.
Had I read the email thoroughly, my reaction would have been disgust and I would have immediately notified proper authorities. Nevertheless, the email was in my inbox and not reading the entire email led to my failure to immediately respond as I would have.
Bottom Line, I accept responsibility for what was truly an unintentional oversight and the subsequent inaction.
In light of these circumstances, Governor Pritzker asked for and I submitted my resignation as Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture effective immediately.
It has been an honor to serve Illinois and the agriculture industry. I cannot say enough about the outstanding and dedicated employees at the Illinois Department of Agriculture and all they accomplished this last year.
Chairman Tim Schneider released the following statement in response to the revelation that Director of the Department of Agriculture, and former state senator, John Sullivan resigned because he knew about Mike McClain’s “rape in Champaign” email at the time and did nothing:
“If a random state legislator like John Sullivan knew about McClain’s email at the time, surely there were others who knew about it and also ‘kept their mouths shut.’ It defies belief that John Sullivan knew of the email and its contents, but Speaker Mike Madigan, a close confidant of the email’s author, knew nothing.
I get what they’re saying, but Sullivan was no “random” legislator. He was McClain’s Senator.