House Republicans Continue to Demand Accountability in Quinn NRI Scandal

House GOP members of Legislative Audit Commission
Rep. Ron Sandack, Dennis Reboletti & David Reis
After 12 full hours of testimony on Wednesday into Governor Pat Quinn’s disgraced Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), House Republicans on the Legislative Audit Commission were left with more questions than answers and continue to demand accountability for the failings of the program.
In day one of two days of testimony, members of the bipartisan and bicameral commission heard from four of seven witnesses who were subpoenaed to appear before them. While issues brought up in the Auditor General’s report into the program, such as hasty implementation, lax oversight and poor record keeping, were largely confirmed as accurate, members did not receive testimony into how the failings occurred and who was responsible.

“On a large scale, day one was very disappointing because witnesses failed to provide answers,” said commission member Representative Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst). “The Auditor General’s audit findings pointed out some alarming deficiencies with how the program was executed, and we have a duty to discover how it was possible for such gross mismanagement to occur, and take whatever steps are necessary to protect Illinois taxpayers and ensure better financial controls are in place in the future.”

According to audit commission member David Reis (R-Olney), those testifying were quick to point out the need for violence prevention programs in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods, but no one was willing to take any ownership of the idea for the NRI program.

“All four witnesses were asked whose idea the NRI program was, and no one would own it or point to the originator of the idea,” he said. “I find it very improbable that those with the most direct involvement with the execution of the program did not know who came up with the idea in the first place.”

State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said the citizens of Illinois deserve answers into the key questions surrounding NRI. “We spent 12 hours yesterday gathering testimony from those closest to the program, with more than five of those hours spent on Barbara Shaw, the primary manager of the NRI program,” Sandack said. “Going into day two, we still don’t know what metric was used in choosing the agencies that received NRI funds. The only thing that became abundantly clear is that Ms. Shaw was absolutely more concerned with distributing the money quickly than with giving the process the necessary and careful consideration needed to allow for appropriate and proper disbursement.”

Sandack went on to say that he is hopeful that other unanswered questions will be answered today, when the three final witnesses are called to testify. “We need to get to the bottom of some very unsettling issues that remain, such as how an initial budget allocation for anti-violence of $10 million quickly grew to $50 million and why Chicago Aldermen were involved in the fund disbursement process,” said Sandack. “We also need to unearth the process through which unexpended funds were improperly moved across fiscal year budgets, which is a direct violation of the State Finance Act. Additionally, the taxpayers of Illinois deserve to know why, when a free program audit was available, Shaw decided to spend $500,000 on an audit that didn’t event gauge whether violent crime statistics went down as a result of the program.”