“This moment, our hearts are hurt. It’s very important that all of us understand that we have a duty, a mission to restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of our government. And to make sure all of our elected officials have the confidence of the voters. I think this is our highest calling, that’s what we have to do in the coming days. I’m confident with the people of this legislature and with the people of our state that we will come together in the best traditions of Abraham Lincoln’s Democracy.”
Those were the words uttered by Pat Quinn, when he took the Oath of Office after the Illinois Senate convicted and removed Rod Blagojevich from office on Jan. 29, 2009. Now five and a half years later, federal investigators are looking into the administration of Pat Quinn for the inner workings of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), which misused $100 million in state funds.
This week, the US Department of Justice asked a legislative panel to please cease an ongoing state-level governmental investigation seeking the truth about how monies were used. A similar thing happened in 2008, when the federal government asked the Illinois Attorney General to stop her probe of the Blagojevich Administration.
The Illinois’ Legislative Audit Commission, which is a 12-member bipartisan panel, has been scouring thousands of pages of e-mails and other communications for weeks. Staffers are trying to put together the links of the “who, what, when, where and why” appropriations were spent and with what vendors and the services delivered.
Based on media reports, a pattern is emerging that Governor Quinn’s NRI program was rushed into action in the last 60 days before the 2010 General Election. Since then, a scathing Auditor General’s report plus concurrent county, state and now federal investigations are possibly showing that top-level bureaucrats have simply tossed out taxpayer dollars with little-to-no accountability.
As a formal federal prosecutor, I know first-hand that the professionals in the US Attorney’s office gather information carefully and very meticulously before they proceed with prosecution. Federal investigators are often criticized for taking too long to move onto prosecution, however; following the law and exercising their due diligence is necessary in order to satisfy the burden of proof.
At this time, we do not know if this federal probe into the Quinn Administration’s handling of NRI will lead to an eventual trial of the players involved, but we can assume that the Department of Justice is taking this very seriously when they asked the Illinois General Assembly to “stand down.” I hope that Illinois is not seeing a repeat performance of the Blagojevich Administration by Pat Quinn and his appointees.