Edited by Jennifer Davis
Baker takes over at Public Aid
Former assistant director of Public Aid Linda Renee Baker took over that agency after director Robert Wright's surprise resignation last month.
Baker, who will serve as acting director, has a master's degree in gerontology and health care administration from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield). She joined Gov. Jim Edgar's administration in 1991 as a legislative liaison, the first African American appointed to the post by Edgar. She became assistant director in 1995.
Wright resigned abruptly, citing last summer's trial stemming from the ongoing federal investigation of the agency's contract with a Springfield- based firm. That firm was locating for the state Medicaid recipients who have other insurance.
Saying he had become "the subject of continuing controversy," Wright stepped down after three years as department head and less than two months after the bribery and fraud convictions of Management Services of Illinois Inc., the company's co-owner Michael Martin and former Public Aid administrator Ronald Lowder, who oversaw the contract. Curtis Fleming, another former Public Aid official, pleaded guilt in the case. Martin and MSI, among Edgar's biggest campaign contributors, were found guilty of bribing those agency officials with cash, trips and gifts.
Wright has not been charged, but he signed a renegotiated contract boosting MSI's payments by $7 million for work the company was already doing. One of Wright's deputy directors, James Berger, is still awaiting trial.
Gov. Edgar began an internal investigation into Public Aid's handling of the contract, but federal prosecutors recently halted that review while they continue their own investigation.
Mea culpa: politicians and campaign cash
The Public Aid bribery scandal has politicians emptying their accounts of MSI cash. They've just about run the gamut on ways to dispose of the dough: giving it away to charity and shuttling it into the state's school fund.
Meanwhile, top state officials are proposing ethics reforms. GOP Gov. Jim Edgar, House Republican Leader Lee Daniels and House Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan weighed in.
"My view is this is the ideal time to advance this legislation and to eliminate the gravy train in Springfield," Madigan said. He would cap campaign contributions from individuals at $1,500 per candidate per election. Labor unions and corporations could contribute $3,000 and political action committees could contribute $5,000. He also would ban personal use of campaign funds, require competitive bidding on state contracts over $5,000 and bar gifts worth more than $25 to state workers.
Daniels would not cap contributions. But he would prohibit personal use of campaign funds. And he would broaden disclosure, including requiring contributors to list their occupations and employers. Daniels would limit state employees and elected officials from accepting gifts over $25 from lobbyists.
Edgar established a gift limit for state employees of $50 and competitive bidding for contracts over $25,000. He's proposing lawmakers extend the gift limit to all elected officials, legislators, judges and their employees.
New" city ethics board
Mayor Richard M. Daley has Darryl De Priest heading his newly empowered ethics board. In addition to De Priest, the American Bar Association's general counsel, the board includes: Eileen Corcoran, a retired certified public accountant; Angeles Eames, director of women's programs and services at Loyola University; Emily Nicklin, partner with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis; Martin O'Donovan, pastor of St. Christina's church in Mount Greenwood; and Michael Quirk, president of De La Salle High School.
42 / November 1997 Illinois Issues
Shifts at the Top
Dale Righter, an attorney from Mattoon, has been appointed to fill former Republican state Rep. Mike Weaver's seat. Weaver resigned to take an appointed position with the Illinois Industrial Commission. Righter's new district includes five southeastern counties.
Rick Pearson is the new political writer for the Chicago Tribune. He's covered state government for the past 15 years.
Joyce Jackson will head the newly ; created Office of Communications at Illinois' Department of Corrections. Jackson, a public relations officer with the Oklahoma corrections department for 15 years, will serve as the agency's chief spokesperson as well as oversee its Internet site, volunteer coordination and new Victim Services Unit.
Porter McNeil, assistant director of communications for House Speaker Michael Madigan and the House Democrats, has left to join Axelrod & Associates, a Chicago-based political and media consulting firm. McNeil will run a new Springfield office.
ILLINOIS ISSUES honors four interns
A member of Gov. Jim Edgar's cabinet is among four new inductees in the Samuel K. Gove Legislative Internship Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame, sponsored by Illinois Issues and the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield, honors former interns who have achieved exemplary public service careers. This year's inductees are:
• Kurt R. DeWeese, class of 1971-72, health and human services analyst for Illinois House Democrats;
• Michael P. Duncan, class of 1964- 65, senior vice president of the National Association of Independent Insurers and a former director of the Department of Insurance;
• William S. Hanley, class of 1964- 65, special legal counsel for the Illinois departments of Revenue and Children and Family Services. He is also general counsel for the Illinois Community College Board and the Professional Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois;
• Lori S. Montana, class of 1979-80, director of the Illinois Department of Lottery and former executive director of the Illinois Arts Council. Montana was also Gov. Edgar's political finance director for four years.
President Bill Clinton chose three Chicagoans, including the oral historian Studs Terkel, as recipients of the first-ever National Humanities Medal. Terkel also will serve as presidential adviser on the White House Millennium American History project. Richard Franke, founder of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and Martin Marty, a University of Chicago religion scholar, were also honored for the contributions they've made to the nation's cultural life.
Four Illinois junior high and high school teachers were awarded the prestigious $25,000 Milken National Educator Award. Ricky Acuncius, a principal at Highland Middle School; William Hector, a history teacher at Downers Grove South High School; Steven Isoye, a chemistry teacher at Deerfield High School; and Joan Moran, a junior high physical education teacher at the East Coloma school district in Rock Falls, were chosen from several hundred nominees.
Dinomight: T. rex conies to Chicago
The Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as "Sue" has moved into Chicago's Field Museum. The museum paid $7.6 million plus commission at a Sotheby's auction. The most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known was named after her discoverer. Museum officials hope "Sue" will settle a debate as to whether the T. rex was a savage hunter or a scavenger feeding on already dead carcasses. "Sue" can be viewed at www.fmnh.org\new\research_sue.htm.
Illinois Issues November 1997 / 43