State emergency agency can’t blow off resignations, sky-high billings

Leaders should stop playing coy about key resignations at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Just last week, the director’s executive assistant quit when the Sun-Times pressed her about billings that reached $48K a month.

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Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, remarks that the Illinois National Guard has helped deliver over half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during a press conference for Illinois Governor JB Pritzker to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP) ORG XMIT: ILSPR112

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Tate-Nadeau passed on discussing the recent resignation of her executive assistant Amy Gentry. Gentry quit when the Sun-Times pressed her about her billings.

Justin L. Fowler/AP

Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s director, and other officials can’t continue to stay mum about the excessive amounts of money Tate-Nadeau’s executive assistant was billing the state.

They also need to stop playing coy about the circumstances that led to key resignations from the state emergency agency that took place earlier this year. Silence or half-baked responses are simply unacceptable.

Illinois taxpayers deserve answers. They might even be entitled to ask for their hard-earned money back if possible, if there’s no reasonable explanation —and it sure sounds like a grift to us — as to why Amy Gentry was being paid $28,000 to $48,000 a month.

Gentry raked in $240,761.30 just between February and August, which is double the amount Tate-Nadeau made in that time period, the Sun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick reported last week. All together, Gentry’s total billings to the emergency agency in other contracting roles topped $1.03 million by the end of the summer.

It was Gentry’s expertise that helped the state tackle disasters and the hours she logged with the emergency agency “are reflective of her work,” agency spokesman Kevin Sur maintained.

Editorial

Editorial

Sure, the pandemic, busloads of migrants, flooding and other crises and natural disasters aren’t simple to tackle. Gentry’s skills may well have been more than exceptional, and she likely put in long hours to do her job.

But if all the invoices Gentry submitted passed scrutiny, why did she quit on Thursday when FitzPatrick pressed about the payments? The timing is at the very least curious and begs the question whether Gentry was asked to leave because she had been padding her salary.

When someone bills 350 hours a month — that’s more than 10 hours a day, every day — that question is sure to come up.

It doesn’t help the state’s case when the official who green-lit the payments to Gentry and the other contractors billing the emergency agency was among four staffers who stepped down from their positions for “misconduct,” “conduct unbecoming” and “poor performance,” according to personnel files.

All four are barred from working with the emergency agency again, which is fitting but hardly ensures confidence about how the matter has been handled.

Like Tate-Nadeau, who passed on being interviewed by FitzPatrick, state leaders have said very little about these previous resignations.

Our elected leaders and their appointees owe it to Illinoisans to explain the matter, and what steps are being taken to avoid a repeat.

Personnel matters are typically not public. But in this case, the lack of transparency about the management of large sums of taxpayer money serves to fuel suspicion that government isn’t doing its job.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

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