(Gov. Pat Quinn ends his news conference on a jobs training program with a wave of his hand at the Dawson Technical Institute last week. (AP File Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast || Retrieved from Sun-Times)).
Friday, July 25, 2014
Originally Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014 || By Dave McKinney, Chicago Sun-Times
SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn said Thursday he disagreed with the judgment of former top aides who let an upcoming mayoral race in Maywood dictate how they divvied up anti-violence grant dollars in 2011 under his now-tarnished Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
“I don’t agree with that in any way,” Quinn said in his first public comments on a Chicago Sun-Times report Wednesday that outlined the NRI funding discussions involving the near-west suburb.
Internal administration emails obtained by the Sun-Times show that Quinn’s former deputy chief of staff, Toni Irving, recommended paring back an NRI allotment to a Maywood social-service provider because of a belief its founder “has his eye” on unseating then-Maywood Village President Henderson Yarbrough Sr. in the 2013 municipal elections.
In her January 2011 email to former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin, Irving described Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action as “the most qualified” provider in Maywood to oversee the reintegration of ex-prisoners into the community. But she told Lavin that the provider would have to “split the work” even though it was “deemed better” than another vendor.
That decision came after Yarbrough’s wife, Cook County of Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, lobbied the head of the now-defunct state agency Quinn put in charge of NRI to defund Proviso Leyden entirely, describing the provider as “not being effective in Maywood and not using resources well.”
Yarbrough denied to the Sun-Times that she ever brought up her husband or his political ambitions with the administration and said she was “shocked” to learn Quinn’s aides had injected Maywood mayoral politics into a discussion about NRI funding.
The Quinn administration has denied strenuously that politics didn’t enter into its decision to launch the $54.5 million anti-violence program in the month before the 2010 election.
The Maywood discussion, contained in emails the administration turned over earlier this month to the Legislative Audit Commission, represents perhaps the most clear-cut study in which Quinn’s office appeared to weigh political considerations as it doled out NRI grant funds.
On Wednesday, at an appearance in Chicago to voice support for a ban on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, Quinn noted that neither Irving, Lavin nor the one-time head of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, Barbara Shaw, were part of his administration any longer.
“Well, the people who were involved in that program are no longer working for me,” Quinn told reporters when asked about the Maywood emails.
“We abolished that particular program. We defunded it. And we’re going to continue to go forward on fighting violence,” the governor said.
Quinn made his statements on the matter as Republican rival Bruce Rauner singled out the Sun-Times report on Maywood and said it was proof that the governor “is just not serious about dealing with crime in our communities.” VFP