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Sandoval heeds the call(s): Gives up driver’s seat of Transportation Committee — but not a seat at the table

While Sandoval resigned as chairman of the committee, he remains member of the panel and mantains his post as a majority caucus whip.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval is chief sponsor of a bill that would allow police to use drone surveillance to monitor protests and other large-scale public and private events. | Seth Perlman/AP file

State Sen. Martin Sandoval on Friday tendered his resignation as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee amid a chorus of calls for him to step down as federal authorities swarm around him.

But Sandoval will remain a member of the panel as it navigates its way through a sweeping capital plan for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects across the state.

Two key voices were missing from the calls for Sandoval to step down. Both Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, had said they believed it was too early to call for Sandoval’s resignation from the leadership post, since the Southwest Side Democrat hasn’t been charged.

FBI agents were seeking evidence of kickbacks in exchange for official actions — as well as information related to five Illinois Department of Transportation employees and several lobbyists — when they raided Sandoval’s office in the Capitol building last month, records show.

Sandoval submitted his resignation Friday morning, just as reporters got their hands on an unredacted search warrant that revealed the extent of what authorities were looking for.

While Sandoval resigned from the committee, he remains a majority caucus whip, a position that involves ensuring Democrats have the votes they need to pass pieces of legislation.

“We are letting the senator’s letter speak for itself,” said John Patterson, spokesman for Cullerton.

Sandoval’s terse one-sentence letter did little more than announce his resignation “pursuant to Senate Rule 3-1(d).”

Under that rule, Sandoval will be unable to be reappointed to the leadership post for the remainder of the current chairman’s term. Cullerton will appoint his successor.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, left, is handed an oversized gavel by Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2013.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, left, is handed an oversized gavel by Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2013. File Photo.
Seth Perlman/AP

Patterson confirmed that Sandoval will remain a member of the Transportation Committee.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week said he had urged Cullerton to ask Sandoval to step down as chairman or remove him if he won’t go voluntarily. Pritzker reacted quickly to the news of Sandoval’s raid — to get ahead of worries that the investigation would taint the governor’s massive capital plan, which Sandoval helped put together.

“We must assure the public that this work [the capital plan] is on the up and up,” Pritzker told reporters at the time. “Corruption and self-dealing will not be tolerated.”

Also on Friday, the governor requested the resignation of his own appointee Cesar Santoy from the Illinois Tollway Board, amid Santoy’s appearance in the Sandoval search warrant. Santoy “agreed to step down,” the governor’s office said.

Santoy’s attorney Brendan Shiller confirmed the resignation, but said Santoy was not a target of the federal investigation. Shiller also said Santoy “is confident that the legal concerns will clear up soon and hopeful that once that happens he will be reconsidered for the board.”