2 months ago from Chicago Tribune
Nonprofit in Democratic stronghold draws scrutiny for spending and oversight of Quinn anti-violence funds
From from Chicago Tribune:
Back in late 2010, Apostle Carl White helped pick who would receive a lucrative state grant — then got $5,000 from the winning recipient.
"It didn't seem like a big deal to anybody," White recalled.
But now the state is seeking to recover the cash in response to a Tribune investigation that found questionable expenses in a key south suburban township during an examination of Gov. Pat Quinn's $54.5 million anti-violence program.
The findings come as the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, the program's official name, is under scrutiny from prosecutors. A bipartisan legislative panel is set Wednesday to discuss how much deeper it can dig into a searing state audit that ignited the growing criticism of the program as Quinn runs for re-election.
The governor has said he's fixed problems once he found them. Republican opponent Bruce Rauner has argued that his Democratic rival used the grants as a political slush fund, which the governor denies. Still, one grant recipient told the Tribune that the program's timing seemed geared to get out the Democratic vote.
A Tribune investigation last month focused on one aspect of the program: how Quinn's administration chose who got the money. That report highlighted how taxpayer cash was given to a politically powerful yet financially shaky Woodlawn nonprofit that folded and now owes the state $238,000.
The latest Tribune review focuses on another aspect of the program: how little the administration monitored $1.2 million in grant money overseen by another nonprofit, Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, based in the voter-rich Democratic stronghold of Thornton Township.
Healthcare Consortium, in documents it sent state auditors, accused three of eight other nonprofits of misspending some of that cash, and state auditors in turn questioned $125,000 that Healthcare Consortium itself spent to administer the program.
None of that counts several questionable expenses found by the Tribune. Those range from payments linked to a Dolton cop who records indicate accepted grant money to mentor kids at the time he was assigned to patrol the town, to a nonprofit's executives buying scores of self-help management books, including one identifying "perfect phrases" for saying a program was successful.
Now the Quinn administration — after often failing to probe red flags of misspending — is trying to recover misspent or unspent cash from township grant recipients while it prepares to send evidence of potential abuse to prosecutors.
Neither executives from the nonprofit nor the Dolton officer responded to requests for comment.
White told the Tribune the $5,000 consulting fee was justified considering the work he had put into the program. And he said that the program, albeit not perfect, helped many at-risk teens and parents — which he said critics overlook in a partisan political atmosphere.
"The truth of the matter is, they're not in the community helping, trying to do anything," said White, who recently joined a group of ministers endorsing Quinn.