Panel sets Monday vote on subpoenaing ex-agency head in NRI probe

SHARE Panel sets Monday vote on subpoenaing ex-agency head in NRI probe

SPRINGFIELD-The former head of the now-disbanded state agency put in charge of Gov. Pat Quinn’s discredited Neighborhood Recovery Initiative may be compelled to testify in front of a legislative panel next month.

A four-member subcommittee of the Legislative Audit Commission posted notice Tuesday that it intends to meet next Monday in Chicago to vote on whether to subpoena Barbara Shaw to appear before the commission.

Shaw was executive director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, which helped create and oversaw Quinn’s $54.5 million anti-violence grant program that is now under state and federal investigation.

“It’s likely if she’s subpoenaed, she would testify,” Shaw’s lawyer, John Theis, told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Early & Often politics portal.

Quinn and fellow Democrats have portrayed the Violence Prevention Authority as a derelict agency that did a poor job of overseeing the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. The authority was disbanded in late 2012, and its functions were folded into the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Jane Stricklin, executive director of the Legislative Audit Commission, told the Chicago Sun-Times that she contacted Shaw and learned she didn’t feel comfortable voluntarily testifying in front of the commission. The panel held a contentious May 28 hearing on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative audit performed by Auditor General William Holland.

“What she told me was that she did want to be cooperative,” Stricklin said. “But after seeing and hearing the hearing on May 28 and thinking more about it, she did not think she could voluntarily appear.”

Theis declined to say what insights into the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative his client is prepared to offer the audit panel if she is subpoenaed.

“The best thing to say at this point is she wouldn’t want to comment on the substance of her testimony,” he said. “She has a lot of information about how it was done and what was done, and lots of it will show that the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, at least at the Violence Prevention Authority, they were making substantial efforts to make sure everything was done the right way.”

The subcommittee that will decide Monday whether to compel Shaw to testify includes Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign; Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago; Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island; and Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill.

At this point, it’s not clear whether three votes exist to force the issue with Shaw. It also isn’t clear what ability, if any, the commission has to enforce a subpoena should Shaw or anyone else that may be subpoenaed not agree to testify.

“I’m not sure at this point,” Rita told the Sun-Times by email when asked if he intended to vote to subpoena Shaw. “(I’d) like to review more information.”

Reis said her testimony is vital for the commission to understand how decisions were made during the run-up to the October 2010 launch of the anti-violence program and once it was up and running.

“She was director during the time the [Holland] audit covered. As you well know, there are just a lot of unanswered questions about why she chose to do things the way she did,” Reis said.

Mulroe did not immediately respond Tuesday to a message left by the Sun-Times.

“I don’t now how Mulroe or Rita can vote against having her come in and having her answer questions. It would make no sense to me, but that’s their decision,” Reis said.

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