Republicans Call "Contempt" As Witnesses Fail To Show At NRI Hearing

Jul 16, 2014

A legislative hearing convened to probe a troubled anti-violence program run by Gov. Quinn is underway in Chicago. Federal prosecutors have asked lawmakers to hold off taking testimony, because it may obstruct their investigation. 

It all goes back to a program called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which debuted in 2010, when Quinn was in the midst of a tight race for governor against Republican Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. A state audit showed it was rife with mismanagement, and Republicans say that's because Quinn was trying to use it to boost his campaign.

Though Democrats were at first wary, earlier this summer they voted with Republicans to subpoena seven former members of the Quinn administration who were involved with it.

But now that the time has come for them to testify, most sent attorneys in their stead.

Republican members of the commission say it's contempt, leading to many terse exchanges, this one between Sen. Brady, a member of the commission, and John King, the lawyer for Toni Irving, Quinn's former deputy chief of staff.

"So that's not asking, it's demanding, and it carries with it the full weight of the statutes of the state of Illinois. And as duly-elected representatives, I find your advice to your client not to appear, to be in contempt, in a broad strange of word," Brady told King.

Irving's attorney says she didn't show up because it would be inappropriate in light of federal prosecutors' requests.

Quinn allies say that Republicans are jeopardizing that investigation, and are on an election-year witch hunt and are "beating a dead horse." But media outlets have consistently uncovered new revelations about the NRI, including a Chicago Tribune report Monday.

Gov. Quinn has said he acted to correct any wrongdoing as soon as he learned of it.

Early on the morning of the hearing, he signed a new state law requires entities that receive state grants to provide Illinois with more information about how the money has been used. The so-called Grant Accountability and Transparency Act largely mirrors federal standards, and is supposed to lead to more timely auditing.

Quinn was not in attendance at the hearing; he's in Washington, D.C. for a task force on climate preparedness.