In a Sunday front page news story, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn provided millions in state anti-violence funding to a group the Governor, Attorney General and Auditor General knew to be under federal investigation:
The problems involving the Chicago Area Project were significant enough to draw attention from federal investigators. They opened a criminal probe into the $7.8 million summer-jobs program, started under ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich…
… A series of state documents examined by the Chicago Sun-Times shed new light on how the Chicago Area Project ran into trouble with the state yet still got millions of new dollars more from the governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which itself is now under state and federal investigation.
Not only was the group under federal investigation, it couldn’t account for more than $200,000 in previously provided state funds for an Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project:
IDOT’s audit team concluded that the five vendors could not substantiate $643,583 in billings to the state, with the Chicago Area Project’s share of that total coming in at $214,214 — the most of any of them. To date, none of that money has been repaid to the state.
According to the Sun-Times, the Governor’s office knew of the problems and kept funding Chicago Area Project anyway:
Problems surrounding the Chicago Area Project first surfaced between March and June of 2010. That’s when auditors at the state Department of Transportation raised red flags about its performance and that of four other vendors, which played prominent roles in the 2008 Blagojevich summer-jobs program, state records show…
… State Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza opened an investigation and because of concerns that misconduct may have been involved, referred IDOT’s audit reports to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office in October 2010 for further investigation. Her office declined to take action when it learned a federal investigation was underway.
The release of the IDOT audits came just months before another, now-defunct agency in Quinn’s administration, the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, put the Chicago Area Project in charge of $4.15 million in Neighborhood Recovery Initiative funding in the West Garfield Park and Grand Boulevard neighborhoods of the city.
State records show that Quinn’s office itself was later given firsthand knowledge of IDOT’s allegations against the Chicago Area Project and four other vendors in November 2011, a full year into Quinn’s anti-violence program but more than six months before the governor began shutting down the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
That’s when Meza forwarded a copy of his investigative report on Blagojevich’s summer-jobs program to the governor’s office. The report alluded to the ongoing federal investigation.