Illinois Tollway faces more turnover as Dorothy Abreu steps down as board chair

Less than a year after being appointed chairwoman of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Abreu cited health issues for leaving.

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Dorothy Abreu.

Dorothy Abreu.

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In the latest turnover in the leadership of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, Dorothy Abreu, the banker Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed as chairwoman of the agency’s board of directors less than a year ago, is stepping down.

Abreu, a senior vice president for PNC, said the “demanding role” of the tollway position contributed to health issues and that she is leaving to “focus on my health and focus on my family.”

Pritzker’s office quoted the governor as saying, “Her work has undoubtedly improved our infrastructure, and she is leaving the tollway in a strong financial and operational position.”

Abreu was appointed last February and was viewed as a stabilizing force after the tumultuous tenure of her predecessor, former Peoples Gas president Will Evans.

Pritzker had tapped Evans for the Illinois Tollway post shortly after taking office in 2019 and signing what was touted as reform legislation that had been backed by then-Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, which did away with the previous tollway leadership.

Not long after Pritzker appointed him, Evans voted on a multimillion-dollar tollway contract that included an engineering firm he’d previously worked for.

Evans proposed renovating his tollway office at a cost to taxpayers that likely would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars but later backed off.

Evans took control of tollway procurement, which until then had been in the domain of administrators.

A lawsuit filed by two former tollway officials has accused Evans of trying to steer contracts to favored firms and engaging in patronage hiring.

“After an initial honeymoon phase, beginning in late 2020 and continuing throughout 2021, Evans, with the help of the tollway’s new general counsel, Kathleen Pasulka-Brown, began trying to exert enormous control over the operations of the tollway and in doing so violated several state laws and tollway policies,” according to the lawsuit, filed in DuPage County by Kimberly Ross and Dionna Brookens.

A Pritzker spokeswoman said in October, “We take all allegations of wrongdoing seriously and would not tolerate any violations of state law. . . . The governor is committed to ensuring that the tollway operates effectively and ethically.”

FROM DOROTHY ABREU’S RESIGNATION LETTER

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