The General Assembly’s bipartisan auditing commission has decided to issue seven subpoenas to former Quinn administration officials in its probe of the Governor’s failed anti-violence program – the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
The panel has planned two days of testimony July 16-17 in Chicago as it questions Barbara Shaw, the former director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, whom Quinn put in charge of his Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI). Subpoenas were also to be issued to six other former Quinn officials involved in the program.
The decision to proceed with subpoenas followed a recommendation from a subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission, which met June 23, along with new developments, including a report that the NRI paid thousands of dollars for a non-existent program that was supposed to help young offenders return to society.
In fact, there is no evidence that Project Hope, Inc., did anything for the $15,770 it received and its address was actually that of a day care center in a different community than the one it claimed to be based in.
Both the Governor’s office and the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority played an active role in signing off on grants for groups such as Project Hope, Inc., according to emails obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The controversy stems from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), a $55 million program that drew questions almost from its beginning as reports surfaced of questionable spending, poor record keeping and indications of political cronyism in the awarding of grants.
Some lawmakers have urged Governor Quinn to come before the Legislative Audit Committee to testify, since the program was created by him and several of his top aides at the time were responsible for its design and implementation. Quinn has said he will not testify before the bipartisan panel.
In a related development, it was also recently revealed that Quinn spent more than $498,000 for a study of the NRI, although the University of Illinois at Chicago had offered to do a more thorough evaluation for free.
The taxpayer-paid study did not attempt to evaluate if the anti-violence initiative had actually reduced violence.
“In a discretionary program as large as the NRI program, simple logic would suggest management would want to know, and should be able to show, whether the $55 million program was having its desired impact,” the Illinois Auditor General’s office wrote in a February report.
In addition to Shaw, those expected to be subpoenaed in the legislative inquiry are: Jack Lavin, Quinn’s former chief of staff; Toni Irving, former deputy chief of staff; Malcom Weems, former head of the Department of Central Management Services, Billy Ocasio, a former senior advisor; Warren Ribley, former head of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; and Andrew Ross, Quinn’s former chief operating officer.