"In the strongest language yet, funeral homes that have lost millions of dollars from a pre-need funeral trust fund are blaming Illinois regulators charged with keeping money safe," the Springfield State Journal-Register reports.
"Furthermore, funeral home directors allege, the state comptroller’s office, which regulates the pre-need funeral industry, kept the burgeoning financial crisis under wraps. By the time the truth emerged, it was too late to stave off losses that might now exceed $100 million, say funeral directors who are suing the Illinois Funeral Directors Association and others."
The state comptroller: Dan Hynes. IFDA's lobbyist: Roland Burris, who set up the fund in the first place when he was state comptroller.
Burris says he doesn't have anything to do with the current crisis because he was comptroller 30 years ago. But that evades more recent involvement in the issue.
"Faced with pressure from state regulators and a multimillion-dollar deficit in a funeral trust fund, the Illinois Funeral Directors Association two years ago turned to Roland Burris for help," the Journal-Register has reported.
"Burris, appointed last month to the U.S. Senate from Illinois, met at least once in 2007 with state officials who had determined the IFDA’s pre-need funeral trust fund, set up to provide funerals for nearly 50,000 people in Illinois, had a $39 million shortfall as of the end of 2005."
To Hynes' credit, he apparently rebuffed efforts by Burris to meet face-to-face because he does not meet with lobbyists who represent organizations he regulates.
But funeral home directors say that Hynes knew of a growing deficit in the trust fund years before they were told about it.
And Hynes is keeping mum.
"The amended complaint filed last week is based in part on financial records from the comptroller’s office recently obtained during discovery," the SJR says. "The comptroller’s office and the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation have refused to release records in response to FOIA requests from The State Journal-Register."
This is not a good strategy. Being aligned with Burris these days is not going to produce a win.
Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.