Metro-East News

July 7, 2014

Dwight Kay: Emails could be missing from grant program probe

A metro-east lawmaker says investigators might not have received all of the emails they sought in connection with Gov. Pat Quinn's scandal-tainted Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, an anti-violence program that critics say was used as a political slush fund.

The grant program is the subject of a federal investigation and also came under fire from the state's auditor general. The auditor general, in a blistering report issued in February, found there were "pervasive deficiencies" in how the program was operated.

But some emails from Quinn subordinates involved with the program might have been hidden from the auditor, according to Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon.

"If it were me conducting the review, and I wanted to run a legitimate review, there's no question in my mind that I would subpoena that information," Kay said Monday.

Kay hired a computer forensic expert to review all of the electronic documentation gathered by the auditor general. The investigator, Andrew Garrett of Decatur-based Garrett Discovery, said emails appeared to be missing from the auditor's collection of documents.

Garrett, in a report, said he "noticed gaps in conversations where emails were sent with no responses, and conversations were broken due to missing email chains."

The investigator also reported that a complete collection of all emails, including deleted ones, can only be compiled by a particular state agency, Central Management Services, which operates the state's $2.4 million email storage program. CMS was headed from June 2011 to October 2013 by a former Quinn chief of staff who helped launch the anti-violence program.

Garrett said if the former CMS head "had been involved in wrongdoing it would be highly unlikely that he or his staff would be willing to deliver materials to the auditor general showing any wrongdoing."

The grant program also is the subject of an investigation by a Legislative Audit Commission. Kay has written a letter to one of the committee members, state Rep. David Reis, R-Olney, stating that "it troubles me to think that deleted emails and/or emails in general" were perhaps not given to investigators.

Reis on Monday said the possibility of missing emails is "certainly something we're going to continue to probe."

He added, "It's beginning to look like maybe we don't have all the emails."

The commission is scheduled to meet next week for two days in Chicago, and will hear testimony from a handful of witnesses who have been subpoenaed.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed the emails of five people who were involved with the grant program. Those five include the former CMS director, Malcolm Weems, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said the governor has "taken the program's mismanagement and oversight shortcomings extremely seriously" and has directed all state agencies to "fully support" inquiries made by law enforcement.

"The state is working with (law enforcement) to supply all documents and information needed so they can do their job," Klinzman wrote in an email.

Republicans say Quinn launched the program shortly before the 2010 election as a way to spread money from a slush fund into Chicago areas where he needed to shore up his voter base. Quinn denies the allegation.

A CNN investigation found that temporary jobs created through the program involved marching with Quinn in a parade, attending yoga classes, handing out anti-violence fliers and taking museum field trips.

The $54.5 million program was aimed at reducing crime in the Chicago area. But the audit found that some areas of Chicago with the worst crime problems weren't even included in the program. The audit found that Chicago politicians steered where the money went.

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