Aunt Martha’s is a private, not-for-profit agency providing coordinated health care and social services for family members of all ages in underserved communities across Illinois. The agency serves more than 60,000 children and adults annually. It is state-licensed to provide child welfare, substance abuse treatment and childcare services
Established in 1982, the Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA) is a nonprofit trade association of community health centers (CHCs) that proudly serves as Illinois’ sole primary care association. IPHCA represents 48 Organizational members—CHCs—that operate nearly 350 sites in the states of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri—serving 1.3 million patients annually.
* OK, now that you know who the players are and their importance to the state, check out this excerpt of a July 14th memo to members of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association sent by Aunt Martha’s CEO Raul Garza…
I am writing today to bring to your attention the behavior of and remarks directed toward me by Bruce Johnson, IPHCA’s President & CEO, at a meeting that took place at Aunt Martha’s on June 20, 2018. During our meeting, in front of six other members of Aunt Martha’s executive team (seven of us total), Mr. Johnson made multiple references to his ability influence our organization’s business and reputation. He went so far as to state that he has the ability to affect our business dealings and relationships with other organizations, including the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, managed care organizations, congressional leaders, and others with whom Aunt Martha’s is developing partnerships.
Mr. Johnson’s inappropriate remarks did not end with his insufficiently-veiled threats toward Aunt Martha’s. Instead, his behavior took a more disturbing turn. As we closed the meeting, Mr. Johnson asked me if Trump lets me back into the country when I travel to Mexico. When I told him I had been there three months ago and did not have a problem getting back home, he continued, asking, “Did you bring any family back with you?” I responded by telling him that I had not brought any family from Mexico when I returned to the United States. He chuckled to himself. My executive staff and I were at once stunned, angered, and hurt by these vile, bigoted remarks and behavior. [Emphasis added]
Aunt Martha’s retained an attorney and he sent his report to the IPHCA’s board on June 29th. Click here to read it. Apparently, Johnson was tipped off by an executive committee member and quickly tried to apologize via voicemail, alleging saying he “really didn’t mean to be racist.” Ain’t that always the way?
Aunt Martha’s attorney claimed that IPHCA had gone against “the most basic principles of conducting an investigation as required under federal law.” More here. IPHCA also apparently claimed that they couldn’t move forward because Garza wouldn’t provide witness affidavits.
* Soon after Garza sent that e-mail to IPHCA members, the IPHCA’s chairman Gordon Eggers sent a defiant memo to those same members. Excerpt…
It has come to the attention of the Executive Committee that this past Saturday evening (July 14, 2018) you received email correspondence from Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness,Raul Garza and/or their attorney (collectively, “Aunt Martha’s”) complaining of purportedly offensive racial and ethnic comments allegedly made by Bruce Johnson, IPHCA’s President and CEO, on June 20, 2018. The Executive Committee regards any and all such complaints most seriously, as discrimination of any type is repugnant to IPHCA and contrary to its mission.
The Executive Committee was deliberately excluded from Aunt Martha’s email so has had no opportunity to respond until now. From first learning of Aunt Martha’s concerns on or about June 27, 2018, less than three weeks ago, the Executive Committee, among other action, met with Mr. Garza at his demand on less than two days’ notice; engaged IPHCA’s attorneys in the review and investigation process; caused interviews of material witnesses; determined insurance coverage issues; reviewed and determined applicable HR policies and procedures; had direct communications with Aunt Martha’s prior attorneys and current attorneys; and otherwise acted as quickly and responsibly as possible in the serious circumstances presented.
Aunt Martha’s in fact waited more than a week to even notify the Executive Committee as to any concerns it now expresses. While Aunt Martha’s latest email to membership apparently encourages an impassioned “rush to judgment”, due process and fundamental rights of all parties require otherwise.
* Aunt Martha’s Garza then upped the ante by sending a letter to the General Assembly’s Latino Caucus on Monday, July 16th. An excerpt…
The Association’s insistence that its investigation has stalled because it does not have affidavits [from witnesses] has no basis in reality. Our attorney, Mr. Ricardo Meza, a former executive inspector general for the state of Illinois, is not aware of any circumstance in which the Association would be prevented from investigating a complaint, regardless of its form or content. Making a request for affidavits even more absurd is that the fact that the Executive Committee has in its possession a transcript of a voicemail in which Mr. Johnson’s stated that he “really didn’t mean to be racist.” It seems the only thing preventing the Association from moving forward is a desire to first make public the same finger pointing and victim shaming already displayed in private.
While Bruce’s comments do not – in any way – reflect the opinions of our Committee or IPHCA staff, we know that he was acting as a representative of IPHCA at the time. More than that, we are committed to taking additional steps to ensure this never happens again.
The Executive Committee has approved the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which will oversee the immediate hiring of a law firm with deep experience in personnel matters. They will be asked to conduct an independent investigation into IPHCA’s current work environment and personnel practices, while also helping us to implement additional employee training. Finally, we will ask them to help us to create a formal process that will ensure any future concerns raised by members or staff receive the prompt attention they deserve.
* In response, Garza sent a defiant memo to his own employees yesterday. Excerpt…
On Monday morning (July 16), IPHCA sent its first message to its members. Their defiant attitude, finger-pointing and victim-shaming - which we had described to all of the members almost 36 hours earlier - were all on full display. In IPHCA’s message, the other member organizations could now see for themselves the same anger and spite we’d experienced.
The first part of our plan had been to contact the IPHCA membership. The next step, which we followed through on yesterday, was to contact elected officials and leaders at all levels. Our message was the same. The President & CEO of IPHCA walked into a meeting with our executive team and made, stunningly offensive, racist remarks. We reported the matter to IPHCA’s Executive Committee, which has a responsibility to investigate and reach and unbiased conclusion. Instead, we were subjected to bullying, victim-shaming, and stall tactics. Once again, the response was nothing less than overwhelming. To judge by the outpouring of support, sympathy, and shared-indignation, it seems almost as if the only people in Illinois who don’t understand the ramifications of Mr. Johnson’s behavior are the same people whose roles require them to hold him accountable.
Then, last night, the Executive Committee sent an email to all members announcing Mr. Johnson’s resignation, effective immediately. The tone of their message was completely changed. Rather than saying their investigating was delayed because the victim was being uncooperative, they had concluded their investigation, having spoken to Mr. Johnson and other IPHCA staff. Rather than dismissing the seriousness of our complaint, they announced the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
This may seem, on the surface, a victory; but it is not. The hateful tone we’ve heard repeatedly over the last several weeks was washed over in one message. The hateful tone we’ve heard is part of an underlying current of bigotry that flows directly from the top of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association. Mr. Johnson’s resignation, and the formation of a new committee, are like a Band-Aid on a festering wound. The people who, for three weeks sat across from me - from Aunt Martha’s - fuming with anger because we dared to ask them to do the right thing, those people are still there.
I attempted to reach Johnson, but was unsuccessful. If he would like to comment, I’ll post it whenever I get it.
Illinois Republican state treasurer candidate Jim Dodge sent out a media advisory yesterday announcing he will be attending the event as well.
* By chance, Gov. Rauner was in Effingham yesterday on a campaign swing to promote his FireMikeMadigan.com website…
Joined Blaine Wilhour, Darren Bailey, Chris Miller, and Rob Arnold at the People’s Pledge event in Effingham today. Visit https://t.co/tVHBlGbmmV to learn more about putting the people back in charge of state government. pic.twitter.com/oFI2zgZuHQ
* Back in the day, Effingham was considered a swing county. Democrat Neil Hartigan won it in 1990 and Glenn Poshard took it in 1998. Comptroller Dan Hynes and Secretary of State Jesse White both won it in 2002. Attorney General Lisa Madigan prevailed in 2006. And Sen. Dick Durbin managed a win in 2008.
But Donald Trump won it by 60 points and the last statewide Democrat to win the county was Secretary White way back in 2010. It’s solidly GOP now. White lost the county by 17 points four years ago.
On Monday, Rauner had signed a law extending the waiting period in Illinois for all firearms to 72 hours. Previously, the limit was 72 hours for handguns and 24 hours for other firearms. Rauner called it a common-sense reform that respects the Second Amendment and improves public safety.
It runs directly counter to the Effingham County firearms sanctuary resolution.
“I respect the passion that those who defend the Second Amendment have,” Rauner said. “And I support the Second Amendment as well. I’m not familiar with all the resolutions that have been passed at the county level. I believe that, as a state, we should protect and defend the Constitution and the Second Amendment, while also finding thoughtful ways to help increase public safety.”
Effingham County Republican Chairman Rob Arnold was present at the stop. As an Effingham County Board member, he voted in favor of the sanctuary resolution. Arnold said it’s clear Rauner agrees with the county’s way of thinking, but differs in specifics.
Arnold isn’t just a gun sanctuary proponent. He wanted to put the sanctuary issue up for a popular vote this November, but his idea was recently rejected by his fellow county board members.
* Part of the idea behind the whole “Madigan, taxes, corruption, toilets - lather, rinse, repeat” is to try and convince Republicans to forget about his divisive primary fight with Jeanne Ives and get them to focus on unifying ahead of November.
Rauner lost Effingham County to Rep. Ives by 14 points, 57-43. But his post-primary tack is apparently working with people like Arnold.
* Gov. Rauner got some solid press pops yesterday. From KWQC TV…
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that expands the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy and cuts the red tape on future construction projects, allowing the administration to move quickly to build a new state-of-the-art facility at the campus.
“We’re building a brand new facility and making sure our veterans have a safe place to call home,” Rauner said. “Building this new facility should not be caught up in the bureaucratic process. Our veterans deserve the best. They have fought to secure our freedom and we’re fighting to make sure they have the care they need for generations to come.”
Rauner’s administration has outlined a $230 million plan to update the 130-year-old campus, first replacing ancient, corroded plumbing that provides a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria that can sicken when it’s inhaled in water vapor. Lawmakers approved $53 million for the first of what officials expect to be a five-year plan, said Michael Hoffman, Rauner’s senior adviser.
“I’m glad to see the governor taking such swift action to begin construction on one of Quincy’s most important landmarks,” said Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy. “Securing the design-build contract is one of the final steps to kick-start the Quincy Veterans’ Home $52 million capital development plan.”
“There is no one who believed that the entire facility and the entire plumbing facility needed to be replaced,” Rauner said. “No one knew that; no one believed that.”
Rauner said it only became apparent over time that the entire plumbing system had to be replaced to make the buildings safe.
Rauner would not say what he plans to do with two other bills that lawmakers passed in response to the Quincy problems. One would require that family members, staff and others be notified within 24 hours of a Legionnaires’ outbreak at a facility. The other would raise the cap on damages people can get from the state if their relatives died of Legionnaires’ at Quincy.
The Democratic Governor’s Association says he’s trying to “wipe his hands” of the ordeal while Sen. Tom Cullerton said he doesn’t deserve a pat on the back for trying to govern at the 11th hour. JB Pritzker, Rauner’s opponent in November, says it’s too little, too late.
Rep. Randy Frese (R-Quincy) said they need the help, regardless of the timing. “The heroes that reside there deserve certainly deserve the very best care,” Frese said.
* But Greg Bishop of the Illinois News Network picked up on something that I think everybody else missed, including the Chicago types…
Touting bipartisan success on implementing fixes to the troubled Quincy Veterans Home, Rauner said taxpayers are going to have to eat the cost of an unfinished veterans home in Chicago.
That $70 million-plus project in Chicago began in September 2014 and still sits unfinished. Rauner took office in January 2015. After signing legislation Tuesday to speed up the Quincy project, Rauner said the Chicago project needs to be scrapped.
“There’s a classic Illinois government bureaucracy at work,” Rauner said. “That veterans home has been stumbling and struggling and over budget and restarted for years, years and years, long before I became governor.”
Rauner said the process involved in the Chicago home is a “nightmare” and he’s committed to finishing the project but said many millions of tax dollars have been wasted already.
REPORTER: Governor, the Chicago area has a veterans’ home that has been in need for how long? And to Representative Chapa LaVia‘ s point, yes, Quincy is an issue and it’s beyond time to address that. What about a building that is maybe unfinished costing taxpayers now?
RAUNER: Yeah, and one that frankly probably has to be mostly pretty much started completely over. There is a classic Illinois, government bureaucracy at work. That veterans’ home has been stumbling and struggling and over budget and restarting for years. Years and years. Long before I became governor. It is part of the problem of our system of procurement, part of the problem of our system of development and construction when it’s handled by the government bureaucracy. It’s really a nightmare and we need to improve it. I am committed to making sure that that veterans’ home is completed and that we change the process so it’s done on time and on budget. Because right now it’s been, prior to my becoming governor, that project a complete mess. And really needs a complete redo.
REPORTER: Are you suggesting that we redo, I mean what about the millions of dollars that have been put into it already?
RAUNER: Oh boy. There have been many millions wasted on that facility.
* Yeah, well, the governor himself stopped construction on the Chicago facility during the impasse three years ago. Here’s Mark Brown in November of 2017…
A neglected five-story skeleton of a building on the city’s Northwest Side looks almost exactly like it did when I last visited two years ago, except for the weeds being taller and the temporary braces rustier.
By now, this was supposed to be a new Illinois Veterans Home, the first to be located in the Chicago area where the largest concentration of the state’s veterans reside.
Instead, it remains a sad brick-and-concrete symbol of the dysfunction in Illinois government.
Gov. Bruce Rauner halted construction on the project in July 2015 in the early stages of his state budget fight with Democratic legislators.
And that’s exactly how the abandoned structure remains 29 months later, open and exposed to the elements of what will soon be its third winter.
The Chicago area is home to more than half of the 764,000 veterans in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, but the closest skilled nursing home with specialized care for veterans is more than an hour drive south of Chicago, in Kankakee County.
So, the governor forcefully pushes a $230 million plan to upgrade an ancient facility way out in western Illinois at a cost of almost a million dollars per resident, but grumbles about the cost of a Chicago facility where most of our veterans live?
And here I thought this was supposed to be campaign season. Oh, wait. “Chicago.” Right.
Gov. Bruce Rauner joined Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn and local officials today to mark the opening of the East Main Street underpass, a project that will enhance quality of life and promote commerce.
The underpass carries regular vehicle traffic beneath BNSF Railroad tracks, eliminating the delays caused by passing trains and improving safety, traffic flow and emergency response times in Galesburg’s central business district.
“Separating rail from regular traffic at this critical location will improve safety in Galesburg immediately,” Rauner said. “Drivers will no longer have to cross busy train tracks, and police, ambulance and fire personnel don’t have to worry about waiting for a passing train. The project also makes this area more attractive to business investors that are looking to grow and expand in this strategic location in Illinois.”
Construction of the underpass began in October 2016, routing U.S. 150 under the tracks and just north of a BNSF railyard. The total cost was $26.5 million, funded through a combination of federal, state, local and railroad funds.
The project is the final piece of a larger plan with the state to reduce the impact of train traffic in Galesburg, one of Illinois’ busiest rail hubs. The Donald L. Moffitt Overpass on West Main Street was finished in 2012 and the Bickerdyke Bridge opened in 2014, separating vehicle and train traffic at both locations. Upgrades were made at 13 other crossings, improving safety and helping to establish a quiet zone in which trains no longer needed to sound their horns through town.
“These projects have shown how teamwork can lead to solutions for problems that at one time might have seemed unfixable,” Blankenhorn said. “We look forward to working with more communities to advance their goals and make life better for residents and businesses.”
* JB Pritzker’s campaign has a ton of different TV ads running at the same time. One Republican operative told me he counted 8 different Pritzker spots last week. Pritzker can obviously afford to run multiple message tracks and he’s undoubtedly targeting various voters on cable. Here’s a new positive ad called “Make a Difference”…
I’m JB Pritzker, and throughout my life I’ve tried to make a difference. In Illinois, I founded the world’s #1 small business incubator that’s created over 7,000 jobs. I led the effort to build a museum dedicated to fighting bigotry and hatred. And I’ve been a national leader in early childhood education, advocating for universal preschool and quality childcare. We’ve got a lot of challenges in Illinois, but I know we can get big things done.
It’s something you don’t hear much about, but across Illinois, businesses like this one have good paying jobs waiting to be filled, but struggle to find trained workers needed to fill them. We need to do more to help high school students get vocational training, technical training for transitioning workers at community colleges, and connect businesses to the workers they are looking for. I know we can create the jobs Illinois needs now.
What could Illinois get with a billion dollars? Buy 6,000 books for every public school in the state, begin to fix our roads and bridges, or provide Meals on Wheels to 375,000 seniors. But what did Bruce Rauner get for a billion dollars? Nothing. That’s right, Rauner wasted a billion dollars and got nothing for it, because that’s how much Rauner lost on interest penalties by refusing to pass a budget. Bruce Rauner, four years of failure is enough.
Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said the agency “would welcome the opportunity to set the record straight on our competitive bidding process, the safeguards we have in place to prevent potential conflicts of interest and the independent review our contracts are subject to in order to ensure maximum compliance, integrity and transparency.”
One case that drew concerns from legislators involved a $6.6 million subcontract with Morreale Communications that piggybacked onto a larger engineering contract and thus did not require a separate vote by the tollway board. The PR firm’s CEO, Kim Morreale, is married to Republican state Rep. Michael McAuliffe of Chicago. The tollway said the firm was chosen on its merits.
Another situation that raised questions was a $157 million contract with Omega and Associates for Tri-State Tollway management services in November.
Omega employs the grown children of tollway officials and has contributed to two board members’ charities.
Illinois tollway directors on Wednesday approved a controversial $157 million, 10-year contract with engineers Omega & Associates that has sparked concerns about potential conflict of interest.
Three members of the board and a top executive have links to the Lisle firm that will supervise Central Tri-State Tollway reconstruction, but officials said the agency has followed all proper procedures.
Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, whose daughter is a marketing coordinator for Omega, left the boardroom during the vote.
Chief Engineer Paul Kovacs’ son is a civil engineer at the firm, and Directors Neli Vasquez Rowland and Corey Brooks run separate charities that have received donations from Omega.
A politically connected Illinois tollway employee hired last year for an important $80,016 engineering department job last worked in 2001 as an account executive selling office furniture.
Laura Durkin is the agency’s general manager of engineering and sister-in-law to Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. Tollway officials recently released Laura Durkin’s resume to the Daily Herald after withholding it for weeks.
Speaking in general terms, Republican state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights said “the tollway has always been a hotbed of patronage. Both parties have taken advantage of the fact it is a relatively independent body and not subject to great legislative or General Assembly scrutiny.”
The Morreale Communications contract was reviewed for conflict of interest by the state Procurement Policy Board and Chief Procurement Office and approved, tollway officials said.
The agency is committed to diversity, including women-owned businesses, and “we have an obligation to judge these businesses based on the quality of their work, not their personal decisions,” a statement said.
The Illinois tollway contends its no-bid process that uses a selection committee to makes recommendations to the board on expensive engineering contracts is independent and transparent.
But when asked to provide meeting minutes, the agency blacked out the names of committee members in a majority of cases, making it impossible to see who is voting — a response criticized by attorney and public access expert Don Craven as improper under Illinois open records law.
When the names did surface they included tollway board Director Corey Brooks, who like all directors is appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, countering claims the selection process for contracts is independent.
Knowing who sits on the selection committee is important because unlike construction contracts that are competitively bid and go to the lowest bidder, professional firms are screened by tollway staff, then ranked by committee members who send a final recommendation to the board.
The Daily Herald has reported on potential conflicts of interests involving contracts where firms have political ties to Republicans or connections with tollway executives. The agency denies any patronage and said it follows state regulations on contracts.
Brendan Kelly’s campaign for Illinois’s 12th Congressional District today released its first television advertisement for broadcast, titled “Faith.”
In the ad, Brendan details his reasons for running. He affirms his commitment to overcoming divisions by rebuilding his home district and restoring faith in Southern Illinois. Brendan also restates his pledge to push for new leadership in BOTH parties.