Durbin favors investigation into Quinn’s NRI program

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Sen. Dick Durbin said he supports an investigation into possible wrongdoing tied to Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-defunct $54 million anti-violence program.

“I don’t know where the chips are going to fall. I don’t know who’s responsible for wrongdoing here,” said Durbin, D-Ill., Friday in an interview with Early & Often. “I’m not for a whitewash or walking away from it. Let’s find out.”

Quinn launched the NRI in 2010, an election year, and handed out millions of dollars in state grants to various agencies. Political opponents have dubbed it a slush fund meant to drive votes.

When asked about how Quinn had handled the anti-violence program, formerly the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, Durbin said he personally knew nothing about the program or how it was run.

However, Durbin lauded William Holland, the state’s auditor general, who in February released a blistering review of the program, describing it as “hastily implemented” and said it didn’t target some of the most crime-prone neighborhoods in Chicago. Holland found that Quinn’s administration didn’t “adequately monitor” how state grant dollars were spent or on whom; community organizations that hired people with those funds weren’t maintaining time sheets; and city aldermen dictated where funding was to be steered.

“I’ve known him for years. Years. We worked together on the Senate staff, back many years ago. And he’s been auditor general two decades or more,” Durbin said. “I have the highest respect for his integrity. When he looks at it and says, ‘This needs to be investigated,’ I agree with Bill Holland.”

Federal authorities in Springfield are probing the program, including tracing how money was doled out. Last week, the Quinn administration revealed that the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago had also issued a subpoena in NRI.

Quinn has shuttered the program and has said he supports the government probe.

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