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Rauner ousts clout-heavy board chair after anonymous allegations

Gov. Bruce Rauner | AP file photo

Gov. Bruce Rauner has forced out his Illinois Housing Development Authority chairman — a clout-heavy figure with past ties to the UNO community group — amid anonymous allegations that the Rauner-appointee, Joseph Galvan, engaged in misconduct related to his state-government post.

The accusations were detailed in an anonymous letter claimed to be written by a long-time developer.

Galvan, who’s been serving as IHDA’s chairman since last May, wouldn’t comment directly on allegations, other than to note his previously unblemished public service and to say he stands behind the governor’s decision.

Two days before Galvan was forced out, the Better Government Association – prompted by the allegations in the letter, which was mailed to the BGA – sent a Freedom of Information Act request to IHDA asking for Galvan’s official schedule, as well as information on IHDA spending and other records. They have not yet been turned over.

The same anonymous letter was also sent to certain state officials, and the Rauner administration ended up reviewing the accusations and withdrawing Galvan’s appointment, which had not yet been confirmed by the state Senate, Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said.

“While an anonymous letter, on its own, is not evidence of guilt, the Governor’s office takes allegations such as these very seriously,” Trover said in an email. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have withdrawn Mr. Galvan’s appointment to the IHDA board.”

The Rauner administration also forwarded the matter to the executive inspector general’s office, which investigates potential wrongdoing by state employees, Trover said.

The inspector general’s office wouldn’t comment, saying it’s not allowed to confirm or deny the existence of a probe.

Until having his appointment to IHDA withdrawn, Galvan attended and voted in monthly meetings in the unpaid position of IHDA board chairman. Described as a public bank, IHDA subsidizes mortgages and makes loans for the construction of affordable apartment buildings by selling federal tax credits and using other revenue sources.

A former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official, Galvan campaigned for Rauner with the Latino group Amigos de Rauner-Sanguinetti in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Rauner, a Republican, appointed Galvan to the IHDA position in May 2015 after Latino lawmakers had criticized him for not hiring enough Latinos. The Illinois Senate, controlled by Democrats, never approved Galvan’s appointment.

Alyssa Rapp, the co-chair of Rauner’s economic development transition team, and Galvan are the only two Rauner appointees on the IHDA board. IHDA board member Cristina Castro said she saw the anonymous letter and forwarded it to IHDA’s attorney but declined further comment.

IHDA board members Salvatore Tornatore, Karen Davis and Harlan Karp declined to comment. Board members Mary Kane, William J. Malleris and Rapp could not be reached for comment.

Galvan was appointed by Rauner just weeks after losing an election for Elgin mayor, a campaign that was largely self-financed by Galvan and one of his brothers. In 2014, Galvan also served on the board of Chicago-based UNO, a once-politically powerful Latino community group known for spawning a charter school network.

Galvan made a name for himself in Illinois Republican circles in late 2001, when President George W. Bush appointed him to oversee the six-state regional HUD office, a job he held until January 2009. He previously worked in community development for the municipal governments in Country Club Hills, Franklin Park and Maywood before he left in 1997 to work for Galvan and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in IT work, financial management, business management, and housing and economic development.

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Casey Toner, who can be reached at ctoner@bettergov.org.