CHICAGO | A key Democratic Illinois lawmaker signed five of seven subpoenas on Tuesday compelling former state officials connected to Gov. Pat Quinn's 2010 troubled anti-violence program to testify before a commission next month.
The subpoenas for officials including Quinn's former chief of staff and a deputy chief needed the signature of state Rep. Frank Mautino after a Legislative Audit Commission subcommittee voted for them Monday. Mautino, of Spring Valley, said he didn't sign two because they were outside the scope of an audit that highlighted problems with Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. The commission reviews and approves state audits.
In February, auditors blasted Quinn's program for mismanagement and misspending, questioning expenditures claimed by service providers. Quinn began the program shortly before the 2010 election to reduce violence in dozens of Chicago neighborhoods by offering job training and help for former inmates. In calling for the subpoenas, commission members have said numerous questions are unanswered. Also, federal prosecutors and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez have requested information about the program.
Scrutiny of the initiative has been a 2014 campaign issue for Quinn and Monday's hearing was laced with accusations of playing politics.
Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is challenging Quinn in the Chicago Democrat's bid for a full second term. Republicans have said the program was a slush fund to shore up city votes ahead of a close election. However, Quinn has disputed that claim and said he addressed problems with the program, including abolishing the agency that ran it.
Committee members were initially going to take up one subpoena Monday for Barbara Shaw, former director of an agency responsible for running the $55 million program. But Democrats said they wanted a more complete list to keep from drawing out the process. The matchup between Quinn and Rauner is one of the most competitive nationwide, and political experts said expanding the list would give Democrats cover ahead of November.
But after Mautino decided to sign only five of the seven subpoenas, his co-chair, state Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, accused Democrats of trying to thwart the fact-finding process.
"It's extremely disappointing to think that the Democrats are trying to distance some individuals from this program and inhibit our ability to get answers to individuals that we agreed upon," he said. "These are the unfortunate games that we were concerned about."
Democrats dismissed claims of playing politics and said they wanted to put an end to the issue.
Mautino said he discussed his decision with auditors and concluded that potential testimony from Warren Ribley, a former director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Andrew Ross, a former chief operating officer, weren't pertinent.
"They're not contained in the scope of the audit. That's the reasoning," he said.
Those who are subpoenaed are expected to turn in documents and testify before the committee July 16-17.
However, with potential investigations from the county and federal officials, they could decline to give testimony.
Shaw's attorney has said she'll respond to the subpoenas. He didn't immediately respond to a message left Tuesday. The others Mautino signed are for Jack Lavin, Quinn's former chief of staff; Malcolm Weems, the former chief of the Department of Central Management Services; and Toni Irving, a former deputy chief of staff. None could be reached for comment.
Quinn has said commission members should trust their consciences in asking for subpoenas and "do what they think is right."