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BGA Public Eye: Now agency chairman, Schillerstrom’s law firm to end tollway bond work

When Bruce Rauner ran for governor last year, he counted former DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom among those endorsing him.

Schillerstrom hosted a campaign fundraiser that brought in $25,000, gave $1,000 from his own political fund and introduced the future governor to other potential backers.

“I was a supporter of the governor early on,” Schillerstrom said in an interview.

Now Rauner has become a supporter of Schillerstrom, appointing the attorney and fellow Republican to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board of directors in May then, this month, naming him chairman of the agency, which oversees billions of dollars in road projects in northern Illinois and controls more than 1,500 government jobs.

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Schillerstrom’s law firm, Indianapolis-based Ice Miller LLP, has been doing legal work for the tollway system since at least 2008 for which it’s been paid a total of $236,945 over the past several years.

Ice Miller is involved in two current bond deals that could get the firm another $200,000, according to records and interviews.

Schillerstrom said he isn’t directly involved in those deals.

In any case, a tollway spokeswoman said Schillerstrom “will forgo any financial participation from Ice Miller’s work on these transactions.”

Schillerstrom initially said he could indirectly benefit from the tollway business because he’s an equity partner at Ice Miller’s Lisle office and shares in profits. He later said he won’t benefit from the tollway legal work in any way.

Ice Miller will continue working on the current bond transactions because “leaving now could stop or delay the deals,” Schillerstrom said.

But agency officials and the firm have agreed that Ice Miller, which has a four-year contract that was to expire in 2017, won’t get future bond work as long as Schillerstrom is on the tollway board “to avoid future conflicts,” a tollway official said.

“We want to make sure there’s no conflict,” Schillerstrom said. “We recognize that, going forward with me on the board, we have to change this.”

His law firm was hired in March to provide legal counsel on the two pending tollway transactions: a $400 million bond sale to help pay for road projects that may include widening the Jane Addams Tollway and the refinancing of $350 million of bonds sold in 2007 and 2008.

The $400 million deal could close as soon as July, with the law firm getting $100,000 in fees, according to the tollway authority. The other deal could close at any time and pay the firm up to $100,000 in fees.

Schillerstrom, who has been with Ice Miller since 2004, said he informed Rauner’s staff before his appointment of the firm’s work for the tollway.

Ice Miller is one of a pool of 10 law firms that provide legal counsel to the tollway on bond offerings and related matters, according to the agency.

Schillerstrom, who was DuPage County Board chairman for 12 years, left the  board in 2010 and since 2012 has been a registered lobbyist with clients that have included an Indiana technology firm and the South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency.

Schillerstrom said he is stepping away from lobbying: “I will not and cannot be a lobbyist if I’m a tollway director.”

As chairman of the tollway board, a position most recently held by Paula Wolff, Schillerstrom is paid $36,077 a year and gets health insurance. That’s in addition to the $119,640 yearly pension he receives from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund stemming from his DuPage County government tenure, according to interviews and records.

This was written by Andrew Schroedter of the BGA.