Democratic audit panel co-chair blocks two NRI subpoenas

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SPRINGFIELD-The ranking Democrat on a state audit panel Tuesday rejected signing subpoenas for two former members of Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration to testify next month about his failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program.

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, co-chair of the Legislative Audit Commission, blocked subpoenas for Warren Ribley and Andrew Ross, both one-time, high-ranking Quinn appointees in the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Mautino said neither Ribley nor Ross factored heavily in the rollout of the $54.5 million program that is now under separate federal and Cook County investigations.

“In talking with the auditor general, he and his auditors unanimously determined they are outside the scope of the Violence Prevention Authority and Criminal Justice Information Authority,” Mautino told the Chicago Sun-Times, alluding to the two agencies that were involved in the implementation of the anti-violence program.

Ribley and Ross “are on two documents of the 55,000” gathered by Auditor General William Holland in connection with the NRI audit, Mautino said in justifying their elimination from the list of those to be subpoenaed.

Mautino did sign off on five others to appear before the Legislative Audit Commission during a two-day hearing scheduled on July 16 and 17 in Chicago to delve deeper into the scandal-tainted program.

Those subpoenas that Mautino approved targeted former Violence Prevention Authority Executive Director Barbara Shaw; former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin; former Quinn deputy chief of staff Toni Irving; former Quinn senior advisor and ex-city alderman Billy Ocasio; and former state Central Management Services Director Malcolm Weems.

Mautino said he saw no need to go beyond the two days set aside next month for testimony from the group. Doing so, he said, would exceed the Legislative Audit Commission’s budgetary allotment for travel and per diem.

“This is kind of inside baseball that folks might not care about, but I have to,” Mautino said.

Mautino also said he does not believe the probe should extend to one of the biggest social service providers involved in the Quinn anti-violence program, the Chicago Area Project, because Holland is performing a separate audit on them.

Quinn also is reviewing the organization’s grants with the state following disclosures in the Chicago Sun-Times about its hiring of the husband of Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown to oversee Neighborhood Recovery Initiative programming in West Garfield Park.

Likewise, Mautino said he does not see a need for the governor himself to testify before the audit commission after the lineup of his one-time inner circle completes its testimony, assuming all agree to appear before the panel.

“I don’t see it. I see the agency directors and those who did plan design possibly,” Mautino said. “That’s why we’re bringing them in.”

Mautino also said that he continues to believe that the authority of the audit commission to issue subpoenas on its own — without signatures from Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Speaker, Michael Madigan, D-Chicago – could be debatable. As things now stand, Mautino and Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, the GOP co-chair of the audit commission, have signed subpoenas.

“I’d just feel more comfortable if they’d ship them up there and let them sign them,” Mautino said. “But I lost that fight. So we’ll see what happens.”

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