A warehouse of questions about wasteful state spending

SHARE A warehouse of questions about wasteful state spending

If the state does not pass a budget by July 1, Illinois will become the first state to have a junk bond rating. | Seth Perlman/AP file

At a time when Illinois is sitting on $14.3 billion in unpaid bills, it’s dismaying to learn that the state rented a warehouse for $2.4 million that it could have bought outright for $750,000.

Yes, $2.4 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to state spending, but such wastefulness begs the question of how well — or, rather, how poorly — the rest of our tax money is being spent. And it’s a miserable sales pitch for an income tax hike that both Democrats and Republics know is coming sooner or later.


Two suburban Chicago legislators — state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, and state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills — have called for an Illinois Legislative Audit Commission investigation into the warehouse’s five-year lease.

This being Illinois, home to sweetheart deals, the leasing arrangement involves a secretive newly formed corporation with links to a onetime political powerhouse, William Cellini. According to WCIA-TV in Downstate Champaign, three business people in the single-bid lease had ties to Cellini, who was the onetime “king of clout” and friend of many governors before he was convicted in 2011 of trying to shake down a movie producer for Rod Blagojevich campaign cash. Those with ties to Cellini include the leasing agent, one of the three warehouse owners and the chairman of the Procurement Policy Board, which signed off on the deal.

The warehouse was leased to store Department of Human Services records that had been kept at a leaky former prison in Dwight. Cullerton and McSweeney ask why the state didn’t try to save money by repairing the Dwight facility, or moving the records to another unused state-owned space, or digitizing the records.

All excellent questions. None have been answered.

Since Cullerton and McSweeney raised their concerns, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has suspended rent payments for the warehouse.

Mike Hoffman, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services told the Springfield Journal-Register the lease was in accordance with the state’s standard approval process.

Which just means the state’s standard approval process is a joke.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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