Lisa Madigan says no conflict of interest for her in NRI probe

SHARE Lisa Madigan says no conflict of interest for her in NRI probe

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Monday that there is no conflict of interest that should prevent her from offering legal advice to state lawmakers conducting a probe of Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

“As the Attorney General, I am the lawyer for the state. Every single day we’re giving legal advice to local, county, state, even federal government and elected officials – Republicans and Democrats,” Madigan said during an unrelated news conference at the Thompson Center in Chicago.

“So, there is no problem there. That is the job,” the three-term Democrat added.

Madigan’s remarks come after her Republican opponent, Paul Schimpf, called on her to recuse herself from offering legal advice to lawmakers conducting the NRI probe — advice sought by the Republican co-chair of the Legislative Audit Commission tasked with delving into the matter.

“Ms. Madigan’s inability to understand that there is a conflict of interest in this situation calls into question her competence to serve as Attorney General,” Schimpf said in a statement. “Her belief is contrary to the fundamentals of practicing law as defined by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Schimpf suggested Madigan’s conflict of interest arose because she served as the co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority board, which oversaw the state agency in charge of implementing the NRI until Quinn disbanded it in 2012.

Quinn’s administration of the $54.5 million NRI program has come under increasing scrutiny after it was revealed that violence-reduction grants were doled out to questionable grantees with limited oversight over how the money was spent. In addition to the ongoing legislative probe, the program is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury in Springfield.

The issue with the attorney general was sparked when State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, who co-chairs of the legislative commission, sought Madigan’s input late last month. He asked Madigan for guidance in whether the Democratic governor’s office has a legal right to withhold potentially thousands of administration emails regarding the anti-violence grant program.

Now Schimpf is trying to turn up the heat on Madigan for her role co-chairing the board that had oversight of the agency that doled out the questionable grants.

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.

Shortly after the letter was received, Madigan’s office indicated they intended to weigh in on the matter.

“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, at the time.

On Monday, Christina Myers, a spokeswoman for Schimpf’s campaign, called on Madigan to explain why she doesn’t think there is a conflict of interest.

“[Madigan] needs to answer as to why she doesn’t believe there is a conflict. I can’t think of a reason why Ms. Madigan doesn’t believe she owes the people of Illinois an answer,” Myers said.

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