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Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 11:14 am

Watchdog resigns

Legislature loses inspector general

The Illinois General Assembly has lost an inspector general tasked with investigating allegations of unethical activity by legislators and staff.

J. William Roberts, a Springfield attorney who took the job on an interim basis last summer, resigned effective Dec. 31. It isn’t clear whether a successor has been identified.

“I accepted the position on an acting basis so I could see if it was something I wanted to do on a more permanent basis,” Roberts wrote in an email to Illinois Times. “For a variety of personal reasons I determined that it was not a job in which I wished to continue.”

Roberts took the job after Thomas Homer, the previous inspector general, left the post last spring. Before leaving, Homer called on lawmakers to approve tougher ethics measures, including provisions for stronger penalties for violations of ethics rules. Homer was the legislature’s first-ever inspector general and investigated more than 160 complaints, but just four reports of his investigations were made public during his ten-year tenure, and no legislator was fined for any violation of ethics rules. A commission of legislators decides what, if any, punishment should be meted out for violations of ethics rules. That same commission decides whether the inspector general can conduct an investigation in alleged violations and whether reports on investigations should be made public.

Roberts was appointed after Homer resigned prior to his term ending in 2018.

Last summer, the Better Government Association published a report noting that Roberts, a former U.S. attorney and Sangamon County state’s attorney who was once counsel to former Gov. Jim Edgar and now heads the law firm of Hinshaw Culbertson, has ties to lawmakers he was tasked with overseeing. Roberts once represented House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his law firm has collected nearly $2 million for legal work for state agencies in recent years. In addition, Hinshaw Culbertson has made campaign contributions to several legislators. Roberts served as counsel to House Republicans during impeachment proceedings against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009.

Homer, a former state representative, also had ties to lawmakers and had received campaign contributions from Madigan and other legislators while he held elective office. He was paid $70,000 as inspector general, a part-time position. Roberts was being paid $215 an hour for his work.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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