Edited by Rodd Whelpley


Robert C. Winchester of Rosiclare was appointed deputy chief of staff by Gov. George Ryan to oversee issues pertaining to southern Illinois. Ryan announced creation of the office for southern Illinois in his first State of the State speech. Winchester, who has held a number of positions within state government, represented the state's southernmost district in the Illinois House from 1975 to 1985.

Ronald J. Gidwitz of Chicago will be the new chair of the State Board of Education, pending Senate approval. He is a partner in GCG Partners, a private investment firm. Gidwitz replaces Louis Mervis, who is retiring after 15 years of service.

Janet Steiner of Carlinville and David Gomez of Burr Ridge were named by Ryan to the Board of Higher Education. Steiner is a professor at Blackburn College. Gomez is president and CEO of David Gomez & Associates. The appointments require Senate confirmation.

Robert F. Casey, a former state legislator and Kane County state's attorney, was named administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board. He will help analyze legislation for the five-member board and oversee compliance with current gaming laws. Casey replaces Michael Belletire, who announced in February he was leaving to work in the private sector.

Jack Kubik, a former state representative from LaGrange Park, has been named executive director of the Illinois Racing Board. The seven-term legislator retired from the House in 1998. The board has nine members appointed by the governor to six-year terms. They must be confirmed by the Senate.

Rhoda A. Pierce of Highland Park has been chosen executive director of the Illinois Arts Council. Pierce, who has been with the council for 13 years, has served as deputy director since 1991 and has been acting executive director on several occasions.

Attorney General Ryan reorganizes his office

Attorney General Jim Ryan recently completed a reorganization of his office's key management staff with the addition of former Gov. Jim Edgar staffers Blair Tinkle and Karen Loeb. New in key positions are:

Chief of staff. Richard Stock of Clarendon Hills used to share second-in-command duties as deputy attorney general with Stephen Culliton, who left the office last July to become a judge in DuPage County.

Chic/deputy attorney general. Carole Doris of Downers Grove has been promoted from her position as chief of Ryan's department of public advocacy.

Deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative affairs. Blair Tinkle of Chicago formerly served as legal counsel to Edgar.

Deputy chief of staff for administration. Ed Ludwig of Bartlett has been supervising these functions as chief of administration since Ryan took office in 1995.

Deputy attorney genera! for civil litigation. Roger Flahaven of Chicago is a 20-year employee of the attorney general's office; he previously served as chief of government representation.

Deputy attorney general/or criminal justice. Robert Spence of Batavia was promoted from his old post as chief of public safety.

Solicitor general. Joel Bertocchi of Chicago was previously an assistant U. S. attorney.

Deputy attorney general for Springfield and regional coordination. Mardyth Pollard of Springfield was previously Ryan's head of policy and public affairs.

Chief of program development and strategic communications bureau. Karen Loeb of Springfield will head Ryan's newly created program. She was previously a key program development staffer with Edgar.

Death penalty gels more scrutiny

The state Supreme Court created a 17-member judicial committee and charged the panel with reviewing the way capital cases are handled in Illinois and other states.

The move means all three branches of state government are taking a look at the death penalty process. Republican state Attorney General Jim Ryan launched his own review, as have the Democratic leaders in both legislative chambers.

Consensus across partisan and jurisdictional lines on the need even to study an issue is unusual. But 11 men have been released from Death Row in the past decade three of those in the past four months either because charges were dropped, they won acquittals upon retrial or new evidence was discovered. That's almost as many as have been executed under the state's 1977 death penalty law. In March, the state carried out its 12th execution under that law.

Thomas Fitzgerald, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, will head the high court's panel. He and 16 other criminal trial judges from throughout the state will study the trial and sentencing processes in capital cases. They could recommend ways to ensure competency of legal counsel or creation of a training program for judges who preside over capital cases.

In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Charles Freeman wrote that "even the best system can be improved upon." Noting the other inquiries into the death penalty process. Freeman added: "Our action ensures that this court has a committee in place which can assimilate the ideas generated in these other forums, particularly those ideas which may fall within the purview of this court's rule-making authority."

Meanwhile, Justice James Heiple issued a dissent to the order, arguing the purpose of the committee "is to show that the Supreme Court is doing something regarding media-induced concerns about the death penalty."

The court set no deadline for recommendations, but asked the committee to conduct its study in a timely fashion.

36 / May 1999 Illinois Issues

Six more charged in licensing scandal

Another round of current or former state employees was charged last month with selling commercial driver's licenses for campaign cash.

Charged with issuing fraudulent licenses were Marion Seibel of Lemont, the former manager of the McCook driver's licensing facility; and George Velasco, of Westchester, a former manager at McCook and a current employee at the Bridgeview facility.

Seibel was arrested February 9, but Velasco and four others were charged for the first time in the April 6 indictments. Since last fall, a total of 13 people have been charged in the federal government's ongoing Operation Safe Road investigation (see "Corruption charges brought against former state workers," Illinois Issues, November 1998, page 35).

Illinois Department of Transportation employee William O'Connor, of Brookfield, and two other transportation workers, Edwin Diaz and Miguel Calderon, both of Chicago, were charged in the case along with Gonzalo Mendoza, a Stickney man with trucking industry connections, and independent trucker Nikola Blagojevic of Lyons.

The recent indictment contends Mendoza, O'Connor and others solicited bribes of $200 to $1,200 from prospective commercial driver's license applicants and brought them to Seibel or Velasco.

The federal government contends that more than 250 unqualified applicants illegally obtained commercial licenses or permits out of the McCook facility.

Secretary of State Jesse White is planning retests for 203 drivers who got permits or licenses from the McCook facility from 1991 to 1998, the time of the scandal.

Legal eagles swoop in on DuPage 7

Prosecutors are on trial in DuPage County, and that's pitted two of the state's top lawyers against one another.

Serving as special prosecutor in what is has been dubbed the DuPage 7 trial is William Kunkle, who prosecuted serial killer John Wayne Gacy On the defense side is Patrick Tuite, whose client roster is a virtual who's who of Illinois' infamous: organized crime boss Rocco Infelise; Judge Richard LeFevour, who was convicted in the Operation Greylord judicial corruption investigation; and Richard Bailey, who was convicted of murdering heiress Helen Brach.

The DuPage 7 are Dennis Kurzawa, Thomas Vosburgh, Robert Winkler and James Montesano, four DuPage County law enforcement officers, and Thomas Knight, Patrick King and Robert Kilander, three former prosecutors. They are accused of framing Rolando Cruz for the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. Cruz served 12 years in prison before being acquitted during his third trial in 1995 (see page 24).

Williamson takes the helm of the state GOP

Chicago lawyer Rich Williamson will replace Harold Smith, who officially stepped down last month as the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. Williamson of Kenilworth was the party's candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1992. He lost the general election to Carol Moseley-Braun. He also served as an assistant to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Gov. George Ryan recommended Williamson for the post after his initial endorsement of House Minority Leader Lee Daniels met with criticism from Senate President James "Pate" Philip (see page 41).

Illinois Issues May 1999 / 37


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David L. Robinson

David L. Robinson, who represented the Springfield area as a member of the Illinois House from 1977 to 1979, died March 27 in Houston. He was 51. Robinson officially left politics after an unsuccessful congressional bid in 1980 and spent the past 10 years in Mexico City as a partner with an investment banking firm. "He always kept abreast of happenings in Central Illinois," says Democratic state Sen. Vince Demuzio of Carlinville. Demuzio, who remembers Robinson as a loyal person and a good friend, also characterized him as "a very bubbly guy. He had lots of energy and lots of ideas. He loved politics."

James C. Taylor

Chicago's South Side lost a powerful advocate with the March 18th death of former state lawmaker James C. Taylor. He was 69. Taylor worked his way up through the city's Democratic Party, eventually becoming a ward superintendent and later serving as a deputy chief of staff to former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne. He served the South Side area as both a representative and a senator from 1969 to 1983. "He was a great man who truly cared about people and worked hard to make their lives better," says former colleague and Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones of Chicago. Says Jones, "He was a true friend to me and the people he represented."

Big people on campus

Illinois State University in Bloomington will have a new president this summer, but he'll have a familiar face.

ISU has announced that Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Vie Boschini will become the 16th president of the school. He is expected to take office July 1.

Boschini has been with ISU since 1997. He replaces President David Strand, who announced his intention to retire a year ago.


Edward T. Duffy of Arlington Heights has been tapped by the governor to chair the Illinois Community College Board. He is the chief operations officer of the National Jockey Club. The appointment requires Senate confirmation.


Jeffrey Gindorf was elected as president of the University of Illinois board of trustees at its annual meeting. He has taken the reins from Susan L. Gravenhorst, who served as president for two years.

Gindorf, of Crystal Lake, is a 1980 graduate of the U of I, with a degree in engineering. He is now a physician in McHenry County.


Samuel K. Gove of Urbana and Cordelia Meyer of Chicago have been reappointed to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, pending Senate approval.


The National Association of Student Affairs Professionals has tapped Melvin C. Terrell as it president-elect. Terrell is vice president for student affairs/public affairs at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. He will serve one year as president-elect of the professional association beginning in February 2000, and will then assume the presidency.

38 / May 1999 Illinois Issues