A co-chairman of a legislative audit panel on Tuesday plans to seek authority to issue subpoenas for records and witnesses in a probe of the troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative in what could become a lingering — and potentially more of a public — headache for Gov. Pat Quinn.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, on Monday first told the Sun-Times political portal Early & Often that he will move to formally ask for the authority to subpoena records and witnesses from the anti-violence program that the state’s auditor slammed as riddled with mismanagement.
It’s a move that Quinn’s office on Monday dismissed as “politics as usual.”
Barickman is a co-chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission, which is made up of six Republicans and six Democrats. He plans a morning news conference following the commission meeting.
“We are not arms of law enforcement. We are lawmakers. Our charge is to review all of the facts and then make our recommendations to the Legislature — or beyond,” Barickman told Early & Often.
Barickman would need Democratic support.
“I need one Democrat to vote with me … I can’t imagine anyone would want to deny the commission the opportunity to review all of the facts relating to this program,” he said.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, co-chairman of the commission, could not be reached for comment.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan, said the auditor general had already turned over all of his documents to law enforcement.
“It seems like he’s grandstanding, and the grandstanding might jeopardize the existing and ongoing investigations,” Brown said.
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton also referenced the legal inquiries already underway.
“Cullerton would like to make sure that further legislative or political moves don’t interfere with ongoing legal proceedings already in process,” said spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon.
Last week, E&O first reported the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield were engaged in separate probes tied to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. While those investigations are behind closed doors, a public hearing by the legislative audit commission could string out embarrassing aspects of Quinn’s program at the same time that he’s locked in a tight race for re-election against multi-millionaire GOP candidate Bruce Rauner.
The commission already has the authority to hold public hearings over major audits. But Barickman said he wants the ability to subpoena witnesses and documents in order to more accurately air out the ins and outs of the troubled anti-violence program.
For its part, Quinn’s office said the governor abolished the NRI after issues came to light. Quinn is pushing House Bill 3820, sponsored by state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, which would create greater oversight on how grants are doled out. The bill is awaiting approval in the state Senate.
On Monday, Quinn’s office dismissed the attempt by Barickman to obtain subpoena power.
“That’s politics as usual,” said spokeswoman Brooke Anderson. “Most importantly, Gov. Quinn is pushing to reform the state’s grant procedures and strengthen oversight in Illinois, which would resolve the larger issue and ensure all state grantees are more accountable than ever.”
On Monday, Quinn spoke at a women’s luncheon organized by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, focusing on his support for an increase in the minimum wage in Illinois and nationally.
Quinn did not talk to reporters before or after the event.