Against a backdrop of sexual and workplace harassment in the state capital, one of Illinois’ most politically potent corporations is grappling with a #MeToo moment of its own.
According to internal documents obtained by Crain’s, Chicago-based Exelon determined that David Fein, the company’s senior vice president in charge of state government relations and its most visible executive in Springfield, violated its code of conduct in his interactions with several women at the company. The documents were prepared for separate human resources meetings in May, one with Fein and another with one woman who had complained about his behavior. Crain’s obtained the documents after they were inadvertently distributed electronically to multiple company employees. […]
Fein, 52, is Exelon’s primary senior-executive voice in Springfield and these days is arguing for legislation that would funnel more ratepayer money to Illinois nuclear plants that are struggling financially amid low wholesale power prices. The company has said in Securities & Exchange Commission filings that three power stations—Dresden in Morris, Byron near Rockford and Braidwood in Braceville—are at risk of early closure within the next four years if financial conditions don’t improve or the state doesn’t bail them out. […]
The document called this Fein’s “final warning” and informed him he could be fired for cause if he took a chance that any future overtures would be “welcome.”
Embattled Ald. Edward Burke is no longer a partner at the downtown law firm where he did property tax appeal work for a long list of influential businesses and where federal authorities allege he tried to strong-arm people into becoming clients in exchange for help at City Hall, records show.
According to paperwork the Klafter & Burke law firm filed with Secretary of State Jesse White’s office in April, Burke dissociated from his partnership in the firm. That leaves Burke’s daughter, Jennifer, and two others as partners in the firm, according to the documents. […]
It was unclear from the paperwork whether Burke retains a relationship with the firm or if he profited from dissociating himself from the partnership. […]
Klafter & Burke filed the paperwork less than two weeks after Lori Lightfoot won the mayoral election on a platform that prominently featured her hammering the alderman as a vestige of the bad old days of Chicago politics where connected insiders get rich and the public suffers because of it. Lightfoot has called on Burke to resign as alderman.
A former assistant director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs made “sexually-oriented comments” and used “inappropriate and highly offensive race-based language” while on the job, according to a recently released report from the Office of Executive Inspector General.
The investigation that led to those findings was underway in May 2018 when Harry Sawyer resigned from his post at the state VA. The inspector general found that Sawyer’s sexually inappropriate comments did not rise to the level of violating state ethics laws.
Sawyer, of Lombard, a Navy veteran and 36-year state employee, was briefly in line to head the Department of Veterans’ Affairs after then-Director Erica Jeffries turned in her resignation amid the fallout over the agency’s handling of a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at a veterans home in Quincy in western Illinois.
Instead, Sawyer, who earned $98,543 annually as assistant director, resigned the same day Jeffries left office, May 18, 2018. He now collects an annual state pension of $58,358.64.
IDVA Assistant Director Sawyer retired this past summer after 33 years of service to our Illinois Veterans. He joined IDVA in 1982 as a VSO and worked over three decades assisting our Illinois Heroes and family members. As a young man, Harry enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Agerholm (DD 826), including a tour off the coast of Vietnam. Completing his enlistment in 1970, he received an honorable discharge and returned to Illinois where he worked as a florist until 1979, when he began assisting his fellow veterans as a service offi- cer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Sawyer is a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other organizations. Thank you, Harry, for your service and your leadership here at IDVA.
And the accompanying photograph of a retirement ceremony held for Sawyer after he was reportedly allowed to resign rather than be fired…
* I asked IDVA’s spokesperson these three questions at noon today…
1) Why did IDVA hold a retirement ceremony for Harry Sawyer after he quit instead of being forced to resign?
2) Why did IDVA then include a photo of that ceremony in its October, 2018 newsletter?
3) Why did IDVA general counsel/ethics officer Pennix and deputy general counsel Eddington attend that ceremony?
This is what they sent me a few minutes ago…
Harry Sawyer’s comments were completely inappropriate, violating both the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs handbook and the State of Illinois code of personal conduct. The IDVA is working with the new administration to ensure a safe and respectful work environment so that it can focus on its top priority: Providing our veteran heroes with the highest quality care and services.
More than two dozen strategists, analysts and campaign advisers who spoke to POLITICO said the hiring and pay trends they’re seeing this presidential cycle represent a sea change in an industry long dominated by men. No longer elbowed out of major decision-making, women more than ever are shaping messaging and strategy as well as steering policy and financial decisions of presidential campaigns.
Anne Caprara, who ran Hillary Clinton’s 2016 super PAC, Priorities USA, said for years it was common for female staffers to earn $10,000 or $20,000 less than men for doing the same work on different campaigns, or even within the same operation.
“On behalf of all the women who have worked on campaigns, it is about f***ing time that this has happened — and you can quote me on that,” Caprara said. “I really relish the day when this is not a story, when we’re not having these conversations of ‘are we paying men and women equal?’”
Caprara is, of course, Gov. Pritzker’s former campaign manager and current chief of staff.
What purpose does Michael J. Madigan serve for Illinois Democrats anymore?
Until recently, the speaker of the Illinois House was the state party’s problematic but predictably dogged counterpuncher to former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a ruthless enforcer of discipline on matters of policy and power if not principles, a deployer of patronage armies, an arbiter of who got what votes, money and, bottom line, permission to pursue any agenda of import in Springfield. To be frozen out by Madigan was to be frozen out—period—and generations of Democrats during his three-decade-plus hold on the legislative reins learned to live with the downsides of his omnipresence in exchange for the seemingly ineradicable grip on control that his speakership guaranteed the party.
All that power, remarkably concentrated in one man, could have been wielded for the larger good since Madigan became speaker in 1983—resolving, say, the pension crisis that threatens to swamp Illinois’ government and ultimately its economy, improving education and services for Illinois residents, or enacting taxation and regulatory reforms that would make the state more competitive with its neighbors as a place to live, work and invest. Instead, that firepower has seemingly been targeted toward one distinct purpose: the acquisition and maintenance of one man’s influence, that of Michael J. Madigan, the longest-serving leader of any state or federal legislative body in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, the state has suffered a slow decline, punctuated by the occasional body blow—governors sent to jail, corporate headquarters opportunities missed, one credit rating downgrade heaped atop another. Illinois now lands at No. 45 out of 50 states on U.S. News & World Report’s recent ranking of state-by-state economic growth and 50th on its measurement of fiscal stability. Illinois’ higher education system, its nonprofit social safety net and its infrastructure are only just recovering from the two-year-long budget stalemate between Madigan and his former nemesis, Rauner. And Illinois has lost population every year since 2014. Along the way, Madigan has become the most despised public official in the state, a persona so toxic as to be a public relations liability for every Democrat seeking office from dogcatcher on up.
* The Question: What purpose does Michael J. Madigan serve for Illinois Democrats anymore? Make sure to fully explain your answers, please.
* For whatever reason, a former Trump advisor running for Congress in the Chicago suburbs reached out to the New York Post to announce her campaign…
A conservative young Latina from Illinois is running for Congress as the anti-AOC.
Republican Catalina Lauf, 26, who is hoping to snag a Democratic-held seat outside Chicago, supports President Trump’s border wall, cites Ronald Reagan as an idol and hopes to be a counterweight to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional “Squad.”
If Lauf wins the seat, she would break the Bronx-Queens representative’s record as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
“I think it’s time that people step forward who want to unite the country and do it for the right reasons,” Lauf told The Post.
The self-described “lifelong conservative” on Tuesday announced she is running in the state’s 14th Congressional District west of the Windy City — and will be taking on incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood.
Lauf is a former Trump administration adviser from Woodstock, Ill., who describes herself as “Latina by heart, American first” — born to an American father and Guatemalan mother. […]
Lauf accused the 32-year-old incumbent of not representing the mostly rural, traditionally Republican district that the Democrats narrowly won with 52.5% of the vote in the 2018 midterm election.
A bombshell new report today by NPR uncovered serious potential impropriety at the Republican Main Street Partnership (RMSP), a network of political organizations which was co-Chaired by Congressman Rodney Davis during the period in which significant concerns were raised about how millions of dollars of contributions were spent. According to one former GOP lawmaker quoted by NPR: “It just all smelled really bad.”
According to NPR’s report, lawmakers and GOP operatives have questioned the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions by Sarah Chamberlain, the Executive Director of the groups co-led by Davis, and that there’s fear the organization may be “running afoul of campaign finance and tax laws.”
When contacted by NPR, Congressman Davis refused to answer questions, and quietly cut his ties to group, even though NPR reports that “before Election Day, sources said, there was a growing list of questions about Chamberlain’s leadership of RMSP,” meaning that these actions were happening under Davis’ watch.
Even worse? This network’s Super PAC spent $200,000 last year to prop up Rodney Davis’ re-election campaign, raising further questions about spending decisions at the organization, and Rodney’s role in them.
“Rodney Davis needs to come clean with the public about what he knew about potential violation of federal law at the shadowy political network that he helped oversee, and when he knew it” said DCCC spokesperson Mike Gwin. “We already knew that Rodney Davis is a career politician who feels more at home at high-dollar fundraisers in DC than listening to his constituents, but this report raises serious questions about what he’s been doing in the Washington swamp.”
* The Illinois Municipal League has taken a very conservative approach to informing its members about the new cannabis legalization law. So, some legislators have taken it upon themselves to provide more information…
The offices of Representative Kelly Cassidy, Senator Heather Steans, Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, and Senator Toi Hutchinson are releasing a Local Government toolkit for the implementation of HB 1438, or the Cannabis Tax and Regulation Act. All offices have received requests for assistance and information from governments across the state on the steps they need to take before implementation in their jurisdictions. Within the Cannabis Tax and Regulation Act legislators took specific steps to allow local governments to determine whether and how they would allow cannabis businesses and dispensaries within their jurisdiction.
“We are giving local governments the control they have asked for and many have already started making decisions and voting on their ordinances,” said Senator Steans, D-Chicago.
While possession and private consumption will be legal throughout the state, some governments may decide to opt out, while others will seek to go even further than the state law does in terms of social equity and inclusion. This toolkit outlines various ways to go about that process.
“We believe this toolkit will be most useful to smaller local governments that may not have the staff and resources to look into the details of the new law,” said Rep. Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria.
While organizations such as the Illinois Municipal League have compiled recommendations as well, they are focused solely on how to ‘opt out’ rather than offering the full scope of possibilities. The toolkit discusses the wide variety of options available to local governments. They have the ability to establish zoning conditions for placement of cannabis businesses, impose additional taxes, add equity provisions such as fee waivers and loans, and allow social use spaces or ‘lounges’ for consumption.
“Think of everything in the bill as a floor, not a ceiling. This is just the beginning - there is still room for change. We are allowing local governments to work on their equity provisions as they see fit,” said Senator Hutchinson, D-Park Forest.
The toolkit also provides example city ordinances and links to corresponding parts of the law itself. Governments can use ordinances created by cities such as San Francisco, Denver, and Las Vegas to model their own implementation of the Cannabis Tax and Regulation Act. The intention is to leave as much as possible up to local governments, while providing them the tools necessary to implement legalization to best suit the needs of their communities.
It’s my opinion this state shouldn’t have legalized alcohol’s “leafy cousin” until it had answers for the questions being pondered by the Effingham County Board, et al, such as: What happens when an employee or applicant tests positive for it? What are the employers’ legal rights? What are the rights of the potential hire/employee? And there are other concerns. The fact remains that marijuana in recent times was considered a “gateway” drug. What happened to that theory? Did it just cease to be now that states are legalizing it?
The employer/employee questions can be answered with a quick Google search. For instance…
The Act provides employers with strong workplace protections, more than any other state that has legalized marijuana use.
And the theory about cannabis being a gateway drug is still being pushed by some folks. It’s not really a great argument, however. For one, legalization takes weed out of the hands of illegal drug dealers, who likely have other, more potent drugs available for customers. Legal dispensaries will not be selling heroin, cocaine or crack. Again, try the Google.
* Plano City Council to soon start recreational marijuana talks: Hausler said he does not know how the full City Council feels about recreational marijuana, but it seems like most are in favor of the city opting in and taxing those sales. He said he also has had discussions with law enforcement about their concerns, including how no one knows for sure how it will affect the city’s police department or calls for service.
* Bloomington Seeks To Lift Gambling Moratorium, Create Cannabis Plan: Carrillo got a lukewarm response from her colleagues to her request to establish a task force to examine how the city should foster a marijuana industry when its recreational use becomes legal next year. She noted the Town of Normal has already started its own discussion.
* In an informal 4-3 vote, the Highland Park City Council opted to take a “wait and see” approach to recreational cannabis businesses: Although the vote was informal, the opinion expressed by majority means it will be practically impossible for a business to open up in town on Jan. 1 when the first early approval licensees can begin selling recreational cannabis to adults in Illinois.
* The Auditor General’s report is here. It covered two fiscal years, ending June 30, 2018. Center Square…
An audit of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services found significant deficiencies and noncompliance that a family justice advocate said shows the state agency is failing.
While the number of instances where the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services didn’t follow up on cases in a timely manner was small, Family Justice Resource Center Executive Director Michelle Weidner said each case involved the life of a child. […]
Nearly half the cases reviewed were not completed in a timely manner, the audit found. Nearly two-thirds of the cases didn’t have initial service plans in a timely manner as required, and 80 percent didn’t have integrated assessments completed.
The audit said failure to follow procedures, regulations and state law could result in inadequate care, unauthorized services or misuse of state funds. Findings of incomplete child welfare files were first reported in state audits more than 20 years ago. […]
While the percentage of cases of neglect and abuse that the agency failed to investigate within 24 hours was also a fraction of a percent (116 of 81,229, or 0.14 percent), the audit said failure to respond to such reports could result in further endangerment.
Weidner said people should not let small numbers downplay the significance.
“That fraction of a percent is represented by the cases that people don’t want to talk about,” Weidner said. “The cases like AJ Freund and Ja’hir Gibbons (both cases of DCFS-involved children who died this year) and the cases in which people are facing medically-based wrongful allegations and these cases matter. It matters to the people who are part of that small percentage.”
The detailed audit report by Sikich published by the Auditor General also found in fiscal 2017 three of 250 child death reviews were not conducted within the 90-day time frame as required by law.
“Failure to comply with the Act diminishes the effectiveness of the purposes for which the child death review teams serve and also is noncompliance with duties mandated by the Act,” the audit said.
The report found there was no documentation of a state central register created for 45 percent of the 60 examined hotline calls.
In other words, if someone calls the hotline about a child, it is supposed to be logged into a central registry – so that if someone calls about the child again, DCFS workers are aware and respond accordingly.
[Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert] said the lack of a prior report could impact the attention a child’s case receives.
The auditor general also found the DCFS has only half of the required number of bilingual caseworkers, which could also impact services.
Several other internal control violations were reported, including some related to untimeliness in the department in its requests for federal reimbursements, filing of accident reports, employee performance evaluations, and approval of contracts. Three findings were duplicated in a separate financial audit, also released Thursday.
In a management assertion letter in the report, child welfare leaders said they acted appropriately in the use of state funds, followed accounting and record-keeping procedures, and complied with applicable laws and regulations “other than what has been previously disclosed.”
Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza’s office today is releasing $14.7 million that has been held up for years for improvements at Chicago Rockford International Airport.
The airport’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul facility opened years ago. The state’s share of the cost was tied up by the state budget impasse that paralyzed Springfield for two years. The airport was paying up to $100,000 a month on interest payments to cover the state’s share while Springfield tried to get its act together.
“The people of the Rockford area have waited long enough for the money they were promised for the Chicago Rockford International Airport,” Comptroller Mendoza said. “Keeping our transportation facilities competitive and modern is a priority, and so is keeping our promises.”
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner visited the airport in June 2018 and said the money was on the way. On Wednesday, the voucher arrived in the Comptroller’s office from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, and it is being processed and issued today.
It is important to note that this funding is not part of the new $45 billion Build Illinois capital construction program; the $14.7 million is coming from old capital funds that were approved years ago.
The funding was frozen in 2015 by Quinn’s successor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, amid a budget impasse with lawmakers. State Sen. Steve Stadelman included a $14.7 million appropriation for the airport grant in a budget bill approved by lawmakers last year.
“Our airport is major driver of economic development in the region,” Stadelman said in news release Thursday. “It is important the state honor its commitment, as the airport continues to expand operations and grow in prominence.”
The $14.7 million represents the state’s contribution to the airport’s $40 million maintenance, repair and overhaul center, which opened in 2016. The airport leases the twin-hangar facility to AAR Corp., a Wood Dale-based company that is a global leader in the aircraft maintenance and repair industry.
* Meanwhile, on a related note…
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa) to ensure stable funding for County Cooperative Extension programs, such as 4-H, is now law. House Bill 2264 clarifies language in state statute to ensure funds intended to support extension programs cannot be withheld by the state. The bill was signed into law by the Governor last week.
When the bill passed unanimously in the House back in April, Weber said, “Speaking from my personal experience with our local extension, I can tell you how beneficial these programs are to our youth and our communities. House Bill 2264 is very simple, one word simple in fact, but this one word change will have a major impact on ensuring our extension programs have the stability and security they need to continue their good work.”
As Weber noted, HB 2264 simply changes one word in state law, but by changing this one word, it ensures uniformity between the County Cooperative Extension Law and the Civil Administrative Code. Due to vagueness in previous law, funds meant for the State Cooperative Extension Trust Fund, which helps fund extension programs, was not being regularly deposited. The new uniformity created through HB 2264 means the fund will no longer be shortchanged and stability will be guaranteed for local extension programs.
An Illinois State Police officer was shot while serving a search warrant near Washington Park.
Bommarito Automotive SkyFOX helicopter was over 1426 North 42nd Street and Caseyville Ave. Images show several police departments such as the Illinois State Police, East St. Louis Police and tactical units are on scene.
Illinois State Police confirm that an officer was shot serving a warrant at the home. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for the gunshot wound. His condition is not known at this time.
A police source tells FOX 2 that there are three people under arrest. One person is still barricaded in the home.
No comments on this one. Just keep the troopers - all troopers - in your thoughts. And let’s all hope everything goes smoothly for the Executive Protection Unit at the Du Quoin State Fair.
*** UPDATE *** The ISP has released a statement calling the trooper’s injuries “life-threatening”…
llinois State Police (ISP) officials announce an Illinois State Police Trooper has been shot during the execution of a search warrant in the 1400 block of North 42nd Street in East St. Louis in the early morning hours of Friday, August 23, 2019.
At 5:26 A.M., during the execution of the search warrant, there was an exchange of gunfire at the residence and the Trooper was struck. The ISP Trooper received life-threatening injuries and has been transported to a regional hospital. The Trooper is 33 years old and is a 10-year veteran of the ISP.
This is an open and ongoing investigation with an active scene. Additional information will be available at a later time.
* This story is a perfect example of why governors have been extremely reluctant to use taxpayer dollars to maintain the Thompson Center and the executive mansion…
Days before lowering the boom on Chicago taxpayers to erase a $1 billion shortfall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has signed off on a $220,000 remodeling of the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall. […]
In a statement issued in response to questions from the Sun-Times, the mayor’s office described the project as a “series of routine upgrades to the mayor’s office, the lobby and hallway into the mayor’s suite and the press briefing room” where news conferences are held.
Similar work has been going on all over City Hall for several years now “to replace outdated ceilings, lighting fixtures, old carpeting, etc.,” the mayor’s office said. […]
“This was one of the last locations needing to be done. Work also includes some minor flooring and counter replacement. This is a continuation of work … started in May in the Mayor’s Office, which consisted of painting, carpet replacement, and moving furniture in and out of the office.”
Could the timing have been better for “optics”? Yup. But this stuff costs money.
The numbers for this year’s Illinois State Fair continue to demonstrate a historically successful event. While records for both revenue and ticket sales were broken for the grandstand lineup, high marks from parking, attendance and vendors were also achieved.
Estimated attendance totals of nearly 509,000 are 37% higher than 2018’s projection of just over 370,000 making it the largest estimated total attendance since 2014. Despite a reduction in admissions for Sunday through Thursday, gate revenue was up over last year’s fair. More parking passes were sold this year than the previous 17 years that this information was recorded. This year’s fair also saw an increase of vendors over last year by nearly 50.
“This year’s fair took an already wonderful event to new heights, breaking records at the grandstand and bringing Illinoisans from all across the state together to celebrate everything that makes Illinois so special,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “From barns packed with all that our agriculture industry has to offer to entertainment for Illinoisans of all ages, I’m thrilled my first state fair as governor was such a success.”
“No matter the metric, this year’s fair was undoubtedly a success,” said Illinois State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon. “Our goal was to bring families back to the fair during the week. I feel our decision to reduce admission during the week was rewarded by the attendance of the public. The weather was wonderful, our promotions were well received, our grandstand lineup was historic and I spoke with many vendors and concessionaires pleased with the crowds and their revenues. I’m excited to see what this means for our total revenues once those numbers are finalized.”
The Illinois State Fair in Springfield saw 369,144 people walk or drive through its gates last month, an 8 percent drop compared to last year’s fair, state officials reported Friday.
Officials noted, however, that fairgoers this year appeared to spend more money than in 2017, according to an early look at vendors’ sales receipts.
This year’s attendance total was lower than the 401,648 who attended the 2017 fair but higher than the 347,855 who passed through the gates during the 2016 event that was plagued by flooding rains, extreme heat and power outages. The 2015 state fair, the first to be counted using a different formula, attracted 411,547.
Fair officials noted this year’s milder weather and limited rain helped the numbers.
…Adding… Historical data…
#ILStateFair attendance the past five years: 2015 - 411,547 2016 - 347,855 2017 - 401,648 2018 - 370,609 2019 - 508,901
Fair officials pulled out all the stops this year to get people back out and it looks like it paid off. Decent weather helped, too. #twillhttps://t.co/xR1hiTR0Eo