Panel probing Quinn program meeting next week

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CHICAGO (AP) — A legislator panel probing Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program will still meet next week even after federal authorities asked them to hold off while they conduct their own investigation, a panel chairman said Thursday.

The Legislative Audit Commission oversees state audits and must approve a review that details “pervasive” mismanagement and misspending in Quinn’s 2010 program. The program offered job training and help for former inmates, among other things, in Chicago neighborhoods plagued by violence. However, commission members said the audit left questions unanswered and had subpoenaed former Quinn aides to testify over two days next week.

On Wednesday, commission members said U.S. Department of Justice attorneys requested they suspend interviews connected to Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative for 90 days.

Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman, a commission chairman from Bloomington, said the 10-member bipartisan group would still meet and decide how to proceed. The subpoenas compelling five former Quinn aides to testify and turn over documents have already been sent.

“Each member of the audit commission has to balance some competing interests on whether we change course on a review,” he said, indicating that members had to decide if their process would impede with a federal investigation or if stopping proceedings would halt the group’s mission.

Some Democratic members said they wanted to stop the hearings for the time being.

“We should honor that request and not interfere with that investigation,” state Sen. John Mulroe, a Chicago Democrat said. “It’s so obvious that this is such a no-brainer.”

Federal authorities and the Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office have requested information about the program that Quinn started in 2010 shortly before the November election.

Earlier this year, state auditors detailed major issues, questioning expenditures claimed by service providers. However, some Republicans, including Barickman, have claimed it was a political slush fund to help shore up city votes ahead of an election that Quinn won by a slim margin.

Quinn has said he addressed problems and dismantled the agency that ran the program. He’s refuted claims that the program was started for any purpose beyond addressing city violence.

Questions over the program come as Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, is locked in one of the most competitive gubernatorial races nationwide. Republican businessman Bruce Rauner is trying to unseat Quinn, who’s seeking a second full term.

 

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