CHICAGO - Tuesday, a United States District judge will review payments Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger has made over the last few months while the state has been without a budget. The judge will determine whether the comptroller is in contempt of court orders.
Adam Andrzejewski of "Open The Books" penned a piece in Forbes, which was published on Illinois Review, about the Comptroller's payments. Since then, an ongoing debate about the details has taken place between Munger and Andrzejewski.
What led to Monday's debate?
Last Wednesday, Munger released a statement saying she, appointed in January by Governor Bruce Rauner, was prioritizing fund distribution to go to non-profit groups that serve the state's most needy.
But in a Forbes' commentary posted Friday, Andrzejewski pointed to checks written to non-mandatory recipients such as Planned Parenthood, Springfield lobbyists, and a political blogger, instead of court-mandated payments to service providers for the state's Developmentally Disabled.
"My priority remains to ensure that organizations serving our elderly, children and other most vulnerable residents take precedence when it comes to state payments," Munger said in a statement published on the Comptroller's website.
Then, indicating she was aware of the court orders, she said, "In the absence of a balanced budget for this fiscal year, my office will continue to work to meet the payment timelines set by the Courts, despite the state's limited resources."
Andrzejewski said in the Forbes piece that the comptroller was facing possible contempt of court charges if she did not pay invoices submitted from those that provide services to Developmentally Disabled.
It started with a column re-post
Over the weekend, a discussion heated up on Facebook wherein Illinois Opportunity Project's Danielle Rowe - also a confidante of Comptroller Munger - defended Munger's actions and heavily criticized Adam Andrzejewski's claims as "spin" and "misleading" when a mother with a developmentally disabled 18 year old son posted Andrzejewski's Forbes column on her Facebook page.
Rowe said that Ms. Munger had paid the court-mandated payments to service providers by August 25th, and that up until August 21st, the comptroller's office had no "approved" vouchers from the providers to pay, saying the situation was beyond the comptroller's authority until she received the vouchers.
At that point, Andrzejewski himself entered the Facebook discussion and pointed to Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's orders, a copy of which was found on Open the Books' website, saying the comptroller had been order to make payments at the same level as last year's until the new budget was agreed upon:
The consent decree mentioned in the judge's decision was signed by Munger's predecessor Judy Baar Topinka, in 2011, when a similar unresolved budget situation presented itself.
Attorneys for the 10,000 developmentally disabled individuals in Illinois complained to the federal judge Monday that the state had the money to pay developmentally disabled and that it chose instead to pay vouchers that were not required by court order to pay. The parties have been summoned to appear before the judge Tuesday to determine whether or not the state is in contempt of her orders.
Despite requests for an interview, Comptroller Munger refused to talk with Illinois Review and chose to present her arguments on the Facebook page where Adam Andrzejewski had pointed to the judge's orders and wrote, "Munger still prioritized payments to Planned Parent[hood] over developmental disabled for two months. She also prioritized the lobbyists, and political bloggers and many, many others."
Munger answered Andrzejewski, saying his comments were "libelous innuendo" and then referred to Andrzejewski's attempt to recover legal fees from a lawsuit that caused the late Judy Baar Topinka to publish Illinois' payments online. Munger says Andrzejewski "lost" that lawsuit because Topinka volunteered posting the information.
"You are neither honest nor transparent," Munger wrote.
Andrzejewski answered Munger:
He then went on to challenge Munger:
Munger told Andrzejewski she pays only what she's ordered to pay, and said Andrzejewski's appeal efforts to cause the state to make its spending accessible to the citizens' via internet is "wasting valuable tax dollars."
... We have the lowest headcount ever in the Comptroller's office. We have worked with non-profits serving those most vulnerable throughout the state to keep them paid so they can continue the work they do. I led efforts to make Illinois government more transparent, more efficient and more affordable -- first with upgrades to our website tools, The Ledger and The Warehouse, and with the initiation of the pilot of a new statewide ERP system that will save our state $500 million annually once it is implemented. I've refused a state pension and state-paid health care.
If you were really "for the good of Illinois", Adam, you'd be attacking those who put us in this disastrous financial situation by spending more money than we had year, after year. after year -- rather than spreading misinformation and lies about me.
She then wrote:
The conversation ended, with no answers for the checks written to Planned Parenthood, political blogger Rich Miller, and the lobbying firm. Munger says she doesn't create the obligations, the Illinois General Assembly and the governor does. She simply writes the checks the agency heads determine should be written.
The Sun Times says the attorneys for the developmentally disabled and the state will be before Judge Coleman Tuesday to determine whether the state is in contempt of her order.