Illinois lawmakers voted Monday to subpoena associates of Gov. Pat Quinn amid a federal and state investigation into Quinn's scandal-soaked anti-violence program.
The four-member subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission decided unanimously -- and for the first time in 33 years -- to act upon its subpoena powers, summoning seven Quinn colleagues to undergo questioning on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, the now-defunct program plagued by allegations of financial abuse and political slush fund-ery.
“This (subpoena) is an extraordinary tool that should only be used in extraordinary circumstances like this," declared GOP state Sen. Jason Barickman, who co-chairs the commission. "This is over a hundred million dollars — taxpayer dollars — for which we do not know yet today whether we even had an effect on preventing violence in the communities that were targeted."
As previously reported, the subcommittee -- Barickman, of Champaign, Rep. David Reis, a fellow Republican, and Democratic Reps. John Mulroe and Robert Rita -- singled out Barbara Shaw, who oversaw the NRI before it shuttered in 2012, as a top target for testimony.
Per Monday's vote, she is being called to testify with six others including Quinn's ex-Chief of Staff Jack Lavin and former Deputy Chief of Staff Toni Irving and Malcolm Weems, who ran the state's Department of Central Management Services from 2011 to 2013. (On Tuesday, Democrats blocked two of the seven subpoenas, relieving former Commerce Department boss Warren Ribley and Quinn's former chief operating officer Andrew Ross.)
Now retired, Shaw was director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority when Quinn introduced the $54.5 million program shortly before 2010's gubernatorial election, prompting Republican critics to brand the NRI a political "slush fund." A blistering state audit released in February cited it for mismanagement, hasty implementation and lack of responsibility in accounting for grant money that went MIA.
Afterward, the feds and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez launched separate probes of the program, the news of which provided endless fodder for Quinn's Republican challenger Bruce Rauner. The Chicago venture capitalist and recent recipient of a record-breaking $2.5 million campaign donation began going negative in his attacks on the Democratic incumbent around the time the NRI fiasco reached a fever pitch in local media coverage.
Unfortunately for Quinn, it's not going away anytime soon. These subpoenas amount to a victory for Rauner and his Republican allies in Springfield. They might be dragged out as well, despite Democrats' efforts to schedule a speedy hearing for July 16 and 17; if things go overtime, an extra round of subpoenas could be ordered in the months leading up to the Nov. 4 election.
This round goes to Rauner.