Top officials out at Illinois state emergency agency involved in COVID, disaster response

Three top officials at IEMA, the state agency tasked with responding to disasters across the state including the COVID pandemic and a record number of tornadoes this year, were pushed out late last month.

SHARE Top officials out at Illinois state emergency agency involved in COVID, disaster response
Illinois Emergency Management Agency director Alicia Tate-Nadeau

Illinois Emergency Management Agency director Alicia Tate-Nadeau

AP Photos

Three top officials at the state agency tasked with responding to disasters across the state — including the COVID pandemic and a record number of tornadoes this year — were pushed out late last month, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has said the top two operations officials plus a legislative liaison who had worked as a confidential assistant to the agency’s director resigned “due to unique circumstances,” citing “personal reasons.”

Records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, however, show that chief of operations Marc M. Sullivan was forced out July 28 “in lieu of termination for misconduct.” His boss, Scott Swinford, also stepped down the same day as deputy director, second in command to agency director Alicia Tate-Nadeau, using an oddly identical letter citing personal reasons to resign.

The records show Sullivan wrote a second letter to Tate-Nadeau asking for “a copy of the investigation findings that drove me into administrative leave, as well as my last evaluations so that I may use those to understand my shortcomings and reference accomplishments for future employment searches.”

He also asked for a chance “to clear personal belongings from my office” from which he had been barred as of May, when he had been placed on an administrative leave of absence. On July 11, that leave was extended through July 28, the date appearing on the resignation letter Sullivan signed.

Asked if he received those findings, Sullivan said, “I was not provided with anything besides my evaluations ... I resigned. I would prefer to not take this conversation any further.”

The liaison, Jennifer March, also was pushed out July 27, according to documents that say she “resigned in lieu of termination due to poor performance.”

Documents signed by Tate-Nadeau show March and Sullivan are barred from working for IEMA again.

March could not be reached for comment.

In response to questions, IEMA spokesman Kevin Sur said, “IEMA-OHS does not comment on individual personnel matters. As stated previously, those three individuals independently resigned for personal reasons.”

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to each of them for their sacrificial service and contributions during their tenures,” read a communication sent to staffers July 28. It also said Swinford’s and March’s responsibilities would be absorbed by Tate-Nadeau.

Swinford wrote on LinkedIn that as deputy director since 2019, he was “responsible for the management of all state responses to disaster,” which have included “tornado touchdowns, several flash floods, two major fires, the longest Mississippi/Illinois River flood in Illinois history in 2019, six separate responses to civil unrest including deployment of the Illinois National Guard to the City of Chicago for the first time in over 70 years, the greatest pandemic in a century — the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and reception of over 10,000 asylum seekers from Central and South America.”

As chief operations officer since 2021, Sullivan listed among his accomplishments that he “led the coordination of 12 state-level disaster responses, three simultaneous Federally Declared Disasters (COVID, 2019 Flooding, IL severe storms and tornadoes), and three additional Gubernatorial Declared Disasters (Highland Park Mass Shooting, St. Clair County Flooding, and Monkey Pox).”

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles

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