This Week in Investigations

It’s been a quiet couple months for city and state politics, but things are starting to get interesting: two federal investigations, rumblings from Michael Madigan about the pre-paid college tuition program, and the city inspector general’s report on truck drivers.

Between the political fights going on in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, you could be forgiven for thinking that Illinois was losing its game and risking its stature as the most politically heated state in the Midwest. Fear not! Things are heating up.

Federal investigators are opening an investigation into state worker’s compensation claims over the past five years, with a focus on worker’s comp at Menard Correctional Center. While it’s been a quiet issue up in these parts, the Belleville News-Democrat has been a lot of reporting on it:

“State Knew But Didn’t Act” (March 30)

“[M]ore than 230 guards and employees have filed for or received payments for repetitive trauma since Jan. 1, 2008” (March 1)

“Workers’ comp arbitrators under investigation are put on paid leave” (February 16)

The BND’s lengthy worker’s comp archive will get you up to speed.


Speaking of federal investigators, WBEZ reports that a criminal investigation has been launched into Cook County’s “scandal-plagued” summer jobs program, the President’s Office of Employment Training, or POET. In 2005, the program’s fiscal manager was charged with (and later pled guilty to) felony theft.


Michael Madigan, meanwhile, is pushing for an investigation into the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which oversees the state’s prepaid college-tuition program; “the state doesn’t guarantee making good on the contracts if the program’s investment fund runs short.”


And finally, the city’s inspector general, Joseph Ferguson, is recommending that the city cut 200 truck drivers for a savings of $18 million (out of an estimated total of 1400-1800 drivers), while taking a swipe at the lengthy contract Mayor Daley signed with the Teamsters just before the city bid on the 2016 Olympics. Among the report’s recommendations: “Enacting an ordinance limiting the duration of CBAs [collective bargaining agreements] to a maximum of four years, tracking the term of the Mayor and City Council.”

Mayor Daley, when asked about the report, shrugged at some length.

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