Some Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members are saying “I told you so,” in the wake of a stunning state Auditor General’s investigation into misspending, waste and possibly even fraud in an anti-violence initiative hastily created by Gov. Pat Quinn.
Quinn created the program in August 2010 a few days after meeting with ministers from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood about rising violence. In early September, several Chicago aldermen gave their lists of preferred local groups, which could administer the state program. Quinn’s administration sent requests for proposal only to those alderman-recommended groups.
By October, just weeks before the November 2010 election, the program had mushroomed to $50 million.
Despite initial claims that a specific formula was used to choose the targeted neighborhoods for violence reduction programs, no actual documentation exists for how those decisions were made.
Some of the request for proposal applications were changed retroactively and, curiously enough, quite a few of the highest crime neighborhoods received no funding at all.
The audit found that up to 40 percent of spending couldn’t be documented, several neighborhood groups did not maintain required time sheet documentation, and $2 million in unspent funds couldn’t be explained.
The audit produced some of the most scathing findings and harshest language of any such reports since the Rod Blagojevich days. The audit uncovered “pervasive deficiencies in [the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority’s] planning, implementation, and management of the [Governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative] program,” for instance.
Some Legislative Black Caucus members say Quinn was specifically warned in 2010 not to deal directly with aldermen or allow them to pick local groups. State grants have a history of problems, and tough regulatory and reporting laws meant that letting politicized aldermen control the recipients could only lead to trouble.
Anyways, Republicans want a full-scale criminal investigation of this violence program mess, with some justification, so things could get really hairy, really soon. And Quinn will need all the allies he can get. It’s time he made a peace offering.
• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.