New questions about clout in Quinn's anti-violence program

A church closely connected to former top gubernatorial aide Billy Ocasio was awarded a contract for up to $100,000 from Gov. Pat Quinn's embattled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — even though Mr. Ocasio had helped supervise NRI grant-making as Mr. Quinn's senior adviser.

New Life Covenant Church, where Mr. Ocasio's wife, Veronica Ocasio, works as chief of staff, received the contract and ultimately was paid just under $43,000 for developing a youth employment program, according to records compiled by the Illinois Auditor General's office and information obtained from state records by Crain's.

A spokesman for Mr. Quinn says that Mr. Ocasio left the governor's staff well before the contract work actually occurred — nearly two years, according to one source — and “would not have had any role” in getting New Life the money. Nonetheless, the award is expected to be one of the centers of attention on Wednesday, Oct. 8, when the General Assembly's Audit Commission resumes hearings on NRI.

“I don't think it was just a coincidence,” says state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, who serves on the commission and may be able to question Mr. Ocasio, who has been subpoenaed to appear at Wednesday's session. “What's available now doesn't tell enough to reach a firm conclusion, but it would be incredibly na├»ve to conclude that (Mr. Ocasio's) influence had no impact on who got the money.” Crain's Greg Hinz has the story.