Lawmakers Agree to Delay Probe into Gov. Quinn's NRI Program

SPRINGFIELD -- Bitter debate ensues as lawmakers probe Governor Pat Quinn’s scandal-plagued anti-violence program. Tensions almost reached a breaking point with Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of political posturing during an all-day meeting of the Legislative Audit Commission in Chicago.

In a highly contentious and partisan fight, lawmakers debated whether to move forward in witness testimony for the governor’s failed anti-violence program, the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. But because the program is now under federal investigation, it brought a plea from the United States Attorney’s Office to delay interviews for 90 days.

Former federal prosecutor, and Democratic Representative Scott Drury, of Highwood, spoke in defense of the U.S. Attorney.

“I come here as a former federal prosecutor to strongly encourage this community to heed the request of the United States Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and refrain from conducting interviews or taking testimony from witnesses for 90 days,” Drury testified.

Brian Gaines, of the Institute for Government and Public Policy at the University of Illinois, said Wednesday's meeting was as much political theater as policy.

"To some extent, this might help Republicans make the case Democrats are conspiring to push the issue past the election to bury this,” Gaines said.

Even if the process is delayed, Gaines said it could still help Republicans.

"The good news from the point of view of Republicans is, it's keeping people reminded of a pretty large waste of money and a substantial scandal that was,” he said.

In what’s expected to be a close election, the investigation could determine Quinn's future.

"If he loses,” Gaines said, “this will be a pretty obvious smoking gun."

After a full day of debate, legislators seemed on track to agree to the federal request.

"I think everyone is doing their job as best they can,” said Republican Representative Ron Sandack, of Downers Grove. “The U.S. Attorney has given us a direction, we're going to abide by it."

After almost eight hours, the commission adjourned without a final resolution. The commission intends to accept the U.S. Attorney's 90 day delay Thursday, but will contact the federal prosecutor to ensure that's the amount of time it needs. If the commission meets after 90 days on October 10, it could bring the NRI issue front and center again just one month before the election.

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