SPRINGFIELD — The state’s top ethics watchdog accused former Regional Transportation Authority member and South Side minister Tyrone Crider of misconduct for steering investments to a South Side bank to which he owed money.
In a report released Friday by the Executive Ethics Commission, state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza also said that Crider engaged in “unethical” behavior by asking RTA chief of staff Jordan Matyas, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s brother-in-law, for help in stopping Madigan’s office’s efforts in recouping $91,000 in state funds that Crider misspent.
Crider is a well-known South Side minister whose political loyalties don’t appear to have any partisan boundaries. He has done consulting work in the past for a pair of Republican gubernatorial candidates, including state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and endorsed Democratic congressional candidate Debbie Halvorson in her 2012 bid to unseat then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
In the 1990s, Crider was national executive director of Jackson’s father’s civil rights organization Operation PUSH.
Meza’s findings follow Crider’s August 2013 resignation from the RTA board to which he was first appointed in 2008 by former Cook County President Todd Stroger and reappointed in February 2013 by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Meza’s report stated that Crider, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, obtained a third mortgage loan of $31,213 from Highland Bank in 2006, followed weeks later by another $37,075 loan to purchase a new car.
Three years later, the bank sued Crider and his wife, alleging that they had quit making payments on the loans and sought to collect more than $40,000. The lawsuit was dismissed in mid-2009 after the Criders agreed to pay off their debts to the bank.
In September 2009, Crider asked several high-ranking RTA officials about investing agency funds with the bank, which the RTA did later that month by placing $100,000 in a certificate of deposit, according to the report. That CD was renewed in October 2010 for one year.
In August of 2010, Meza reported, Highland Bank moved to reinstate its lawsuit against Crider and his wife, alleging they had quit making monthly payments that were owed on their loans. A judgment of $36,438 was entered against the couple in September of that year, and Crider’s $25,000-a-year RTA salary began being garnished in April 2011.
Meza alleged that Crider undertook a new effort in August 2012 to steer more RTA money to Highland Bank, ultimately involving RTA CFO Bea Reyna-Hickey, RTA Treasurer Allan Sharkey and Matyas.
In September 2012, the RTA invested $250,000 with Highland Bank in another CD for a one-year term.
“The OEIG concludes that, based on the relevant facts, a reasonable person would view Rev. Crider’s conduct of participating in RTA’s decision to invest funds with Highland Bank as having at least the appearance of impropriety,” Meza wrote in the report. “A reasonable person, who was aware of Rev. Crider’s long and litigious relationship with Highland Bank, would question the integrity of Rev. Crider’s actions.”
Matyas told state investigators who interviewed him about the matter that he was unaware that Crider owed the bank money, though he did know Crider’s wages were being garnished. Matyas told Meza’s investigators he was unclear why Crider’s paycheck was being garnished or that it involved Highland Bank.
At about that same time, Matyas also indicated that Crider approached him to talk about grant-recovery litigation with the attorney general involving $91,000 Crider obtained from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in 2001 on behalf of the Pastors Network, a non-profit he established to encourage students to stay in school and attend college.
“According to Mr. Matyas, Rev. Crider did not explicitly state how the funds were spent, but rather implied the funds were not used appropriately,” the report said. “Mr. Matyas also told investors that during the encounter, Rev. Crider asked him to contact Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and ‘take care of it,’” the report said.
“Mr. Matyas said that, in response to Rev. Crider’s statement, he told Rev. Crider that he should hire an attorney, to which Rev. Crider replied that he had and that his attorney had been in settlement discussions with the office of the Illinois attorney general. Mr. Matyas said he told Rev. Crider that he would not speak to Illinois Attorney General Madigan on his behalf,” the report said.
Shortly afterward, Matyas told investigators, he contacted the RTA’s ethics officer and “told him that Rev. Crider had put him [Mr. Matyas] in a ‘bad position,’” the report said.
Crider denied asking Matyas’ help in lobbying his sister-in-law and instead said he was merely seeking advice from Matyas in obtaining a lawyer, the report said.
In five separate findings, Meza determined that Crider acted improperly by trying to steer RTA investments to a bank that had sued him, by asking Matyas to intervene with his sister-in-law to stop grant recovery proceedings against him and by falsifying his RTA disclosure forms by not indicating he owed money to Highland Bank, had a $91,000 debt to the state tied to the grant-recovery case and had a separate $31,792 judgment against him.
“In light of the fact that Rev. Crider has already resigned from the RTA Board of Directors, the OEIG recommends that Rev. Crider not receive future appointments to state agency governmental bodies under the jurisdiction of the Illinois governor,” Meza concluded.
Crider did not respond to a message left on his cellphone voice mail.
An RTA spokeswoman said her agency turned the matter over to Meza’s office and cooperated fully with his investigation.
“The RTA takes this finding and the events leading up to it very seriously,” RTA spokeswoman Susan Massel said.
She said the transit agency no longer has any financial dealings with Highland Bank.
“The renewal rate offered by the bank was not competitive. So, according to the agency’s investment policy, the CD was not renewed,” she said.
A message left with Dennis Irvin, president of Highland Community Bank, was not returned Friday.
Crider was paid $10,000 in 2010 by Brady’s gubernatorial campaign for consulting work and has no affiliation with the senator’s current bid for the party’s nomination for governor, a spokesman said.
Brady aide Dan Egler said Crider’s work “was for community outreach and leaflets for African-American churches” because Brady wanted to demonstrate he could be a “governor for all of Illinois.”
“I think every Republican reaches out in a general election to African Americans,” Egler said. “We obviously need a decent Chicago vote to win, and [African Americans] were not completely happy with the current governor.”
State campaign records also show that Crider received $36,000 for consulting services from former Attorney General Jim Ryan’s Republican gubernatorial campaign in 2002.