Edited by Jennifer Davis
" They're treating him like a head of state. "
Raymundo Flores, executive director of the Illinois trade office in Mexico City, to the Chicago Tribune about Gov. Jim Edgar's Mexico trade mission last month.
Caught stealing from Honest Abe
Sean Brown made history by stealing it. He's the former researcher for The Lincoln Legal Papers Project charged with stealing and selling at least 200 documents written or signed by Abraham Lincoln. Officials filed felony charges against the Springfield man last month. "This is almost unprecedented," says Project Director Cullom Davis, meaning Brown's arrest, not the theft. Indeed, "for almost 100 years following [Lincoln's] death, as far as I know, it was not criminal for someone to remove public documents. That's why you see so many Lincoln papers in private hands and at libraries across the country." In the 1950s the law was changed. But even then, many courthouses didn't know what documents they had, so tracing theft was nearly impossible. But, thanks to eight years of research, Davis' staff has a good idea. They've searched court- houses statewide. In fact, it was Brown's former co-workers who uncovered his thefts. During a routine inventory of Lincoln documents purchased at a June 1997 auction, researchers found five the state supposedly already owned. Further investigation led to about 200 missing documents, which netted Brown some $42,000. He paid partial restitution of $16,000 before the charges were filed. Further voluntary payments are "unlikely," says Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Brown, who posted $2,500 bond in Morgan County, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000 plus restitution. Davis notes his project has taken extra precautions "to ensure the confidence of our hosts." For one, they've "explicitly invited" courthouse staff to watch them work, and when possible they're researching in pairs. The Lincoln Legal Papers Project, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and co-sponsored by the University of Illinois at Springfield Legal Studies Center and the Abraham Lincoln Association, plans to release a CD-ROM version of their research next year. A multivolume printed edition will be available later.
Mikva gets government ethics award
Abner Mikva, former state lawmaker, congressman, federal judge and White House counsel, was honored last month with the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award. Mikva, who began his public service career more than 40 years ago, has written textbooks and taught at several law schools. The award, named for Illinois' three-term Democratic U.S. senator, recognizes those who have contributed "to the practice and understanding of ethical behavior in government." U.S. Sens. Carol Moseley-Braun and Richard Durbin and University of Illinois President James Stukel presented the award.
Teachers' retirement system reaches agreement with California company
Perhaps it needs a refresher course in math. The state fund for retired teachers seems to have trouble balancing its books. Most recently, the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System acknowledged overpaying a California investment company $3 million. The good news is that the firm. Pacific Investment Management Co., agreed last month to credit and repay the state. TRS interim executive director John Day says the "resolution of the matter was consistent with the excellent business relationship that has existed with Pacific" since 1982. The company thought the money was legitimately theirs, part of a contract amendment approved by the TRS board. The board, however, knew nothing of it. This isn't the first time TRS' finances have been questioned. Last year, an audit uncovered millions in bad investments by the fund's former chief investment officer Thomas Zimmerman. He allegedly tunneled millions into his own investment firm, which then cost TRS nearly $300 million. The state is just about ready to audit TRS again, says Thomas Loobey of the auditor general's office. While this is not a special audit as a result of the overpayment, Loobey says there will be more scrutiny of contracts.
34 / April 1998 Illinois Issues
Chris Wills is the new Statehouse Associated Press bureau chief, replacing Ray Long who moved to the Chicago Tribune's Statehouse bureau. Wills, who most recently was the AP's bureau chief in Peoria, started out with the wire service's Springfield bureau in 1990. "I'm really excited about it because the job is so involving and so high-energy. But I also recognize it's a tough job. There's so much to keep track of."
First woman to head SIU Carbondale campus
FBI mole al ADM gets nine years
Mark Whitacre, the baby-faced former Archer Daniels Midland Co. rising star turned FBI mole, was sentenced last month to nine years in federal prison for stealing millions from the Decatur-based agribusiness giant.
Whitacre of North Carolina started out helping federal officials go after ADM for involvement in a price-Fixing scheme. It wasn't long, however, before his actions were also under investigation.
Whitacre admitted funneling $9 million from his former employer to secret bank accounts abroad. He may still testify against ADM in an ongoing federal anti-trust suit, federal officials say, but he faces no other criminal charges.
ADM, who filed an ongoing civil suit against Whitacre in 1996, has refused comment.
Illinois Issues April 1998 / 35
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator