CHICAGO – A legislative subcommittee voted Monday to subpoena seven former state officials connected to Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence initiative that’s also under federal and Cook County probes.
The rare move – the Legislative Audit Commission last issued subpoenas in the early 1980s – would mean the former state officials would be compelled to turn in documents and testify next month over two days about the 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was blasted in a state audit earlier this year for mismanagement and misspending. The subpoenas still required a sign off from state Rep. Frank Mautino, a Democratic co-chair of the commission that reviews state audits.
The subcommittee was initially going to take up one subpoena for Barbara Shaw, former director of an agency that was responsible for running the $55 million anti-violence program. But Democrats said they wanted a more complete list to speed up the process.
“It’s about trying to put closure to this,” said state Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat. “What we could do is end these two-day hearings, not drag this out.”
The other individuals committee members approved subpoenas for include Jack Lavin, Quinn’s former chief of staff; Malcolm Weems, the former chief of the Department of Central Management Services; and Toni Irving, a former deputy chief of staff.
They could not be immediately reached for comment. Shaw’s attorney has said she’ll respond if subpoenaed.
Mautino was expected to sign off on the Shaw subpoena, but the fate of the six others was unclear. He didn’t immediately return a message.
The commission meets July 16-17.
Questions over the anti-violence program have dogged Quinn for months and become fodder for his Republican gubernatorial challenger, Bruce Rauner. Earlier this year, a state auditor’s report outlined “pervasive deficiencies” in implementing the program and questioned expenditures by service providers. The program, which included job training in violence-plagued Chicago neighborhoods, was created weeks ahead of the 2010 election where Quinn won by a thin margin. That prompted some Republicans to later deem it a “political slush fund” for Quinn to solidify city votes.
The Chicago Democrat has said no money was issued ahead of the election and that he worked to address problems, including dismantling the overseeing Illinois Violence Prevention Authority.
Republicans on the commission said more questions had been raised by other testimony before the commission on the program and recent news reports. The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that attempts to pay groups participating in the program took place ahead of the election.
“We’re charged with finding out not only what happened but how it happened ... to make sure a failure of this magnitude doesn’t happen again,” said Bloomington Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman, a commission co-chairman.
Federal prosecutors have asked for information related to the program. Also, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office has subpoenaed records from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversees community grants.
During the hearing, both Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee accused the other party of playing politics, particularly because of the timing. The November matchup between Quinn and Rauner is expected to be one of the closest and most expensive governor’s races nationwide.
Quinn told reporters earlier Monday after an unrelated event that committee members should follow their consciences.
“They should do what they think is right,” Quinn said.