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Gov. Quinn says he won't appear before commission probing NRI

Gov. Pat Quinn said Thursday he was “angry” about the failings of an anti-violence program he launched in 2010, but he rejected a suggestion by his opponent that he should testify before a legislative panel.

“I have no intention of doing that,” Quinn told reporters on Thursday. “I’m very angry about the fact that the program didn’t work out the way it was supposed to work out. I was in Roseland when we began the effort to have a systematic approach to fighting violence across Illinois. I think this is a very important issue to all of us, especially our students and our children.”

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Quinn’s remarks came a day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner told the Chicago Sun-Times that the governor should sit before the Legislative Audit Commission and testify about how decisions were made in doling out state grant money for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and whether politics played a role in it.

“I think he should come forward in every regard. This really looks corrupt,” Rauner told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. “He should come forward and make clear what’s his role in it.”

Rauner accused Quinn of “dodging” the issue and hiding from reporters. On Thursday though, Quinn spoke at length about the program, portraying his role in launching it in 2010 as well-intentioned. Quinn noted he had shut down the NRI.

“That program didn’t work the way it was supposed to, and that’s why it was defunded and moved to a different agency. The agency that was running it was abolished. Everybody knows that,” he said.

The program’s functions were folded into the Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Rauner made the remarks in response to a Sun-Times story detailing how state money went to a prison re-entry program that was operating out of a day care center.

Citing state records, the Sun-Times on Wednesday detailed how the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, the agency Quinn put in charge of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, and the governor’s office itself appeared to have played an active role in signing off on subcontracting choices, such as Project Hope, that were made by the larger nonprofits chosen to oversee anti-violence programming in 23 city neighborhoods and suburban townships.

This week, the Legislative Audit Commission issued a series of subpoenas to former Illinois officials calling them to testify about the program.

In addition, two separate criminal probes — one by federal authorities, the other by state authorities — are underway into different aspects of the program, the Sun-Times has reported.