SPRINGFIELD — The ranking Republican on a legislative panel investigating Gov. Pat Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has asked for Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s guidance in whether Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has a legal right to withhold potentially thousands of administration emails regarding the anti-violence grant program.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, co-chair of the Legislative Audit Commission, sought Madigan’s input in a Friday letter.
So far, Quinn’s office has given the panel more than 2,000 emails but has acknowledged withholding an unknown number of additional correspondences on the basis of attorney-client privilege.
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A key witness the commission has subpoenaed, former Quinn deputy chief of staff Toni Irving, has more than 7,300 NRI-related emails in her possession, and the governor’s lawyer, John Schomberg, has exerted attorney-client privilege in seeking to block the release of some of those, her lawyer Jon King has told the audit panel.
“Mr. Schomberg has made a blanket claim of attorney-client privilege and asked Mr. King to withhold certain documents from the commission,” Barickman wrote in his letter to Madigan. “Mr. King’s professional courtesy notwithstanding, the propriety of privilege under the present circumstances seems questionable.
“Executive or attorney-client privileges are to be taken seriously, but given the timing and circumstances, it is unclear if any privilege can be properly raised,” the senator wrote.
Barickman wants the governor’s office to provide a log outlining emails that are being withheld and a reason why, and believes that any emails Irving received upon her leaving state government should be made public because “a waiver of any privilege has occurred.”
Madigan’s office Monday confirmed it had received Barickman’s letter and intends to respond to him.
“I can confirm that we are reviewing this matter, and we expect to be providing legal advice to the Legislative Audit Commission,” Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer told Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times political portal.
Bauer could not provide a timetable on when the attorney general’s office would respond to Barickman.
She did add that Madigan does not believe her role as the former co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority board, which oversaw the state agency in charge of implementing the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative until Quinn disbanded it in 2012, constituted a conflict of interest.
Quinn’s office insisted it was in full compliance of the Legislative Audit Commission’s request but would not divulge Monday how many emails it withheld from the panel due to attorney-client privilege.
“Our office has fully complied with the Legislative Audit Commission,” Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said in prepared statement. “At their request, we have provided more than 2,000 emails related to NRI. The limited number of emails not provided on the disc were legally protected attorney-client communications between state employees and state attorneys either seeking or providing legal advice.”
The $54.5 million program is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury in Springfield. Last month, the U.S. attorney’s office subpoenaed NRI-related emails from three former administration officials, including former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin, who now is a lobbyist.