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Hearing Focuses on Troubled Quinn Anti-Violence Program

Updated: Friday, May 30 2014, 03:53 PM CDT
ILLINOIS -- Gov. Pat Quinn's hard-plagued anti-violence program from 2010 was under a microscope today.

A joint commission of House and Senate members reviewed how the program came into existence and went wrong at a hearing this morning.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, or NRI, is a favorite punching bag for Republicans, who say it was a political slush fund for Quinn's 2010 election campaign.

The majority of the hearing was spent grilling the auditor general staff, who conducted a damning audit of the $55 million program and the executive director of the Criminal Justice Information Authority, which eventually absorbed the NRI.

Much of it was a rehash of what the report already found. The auditor general report released this fall was blunt in its condemnation of the NRI, but the live presentation added a little more fire than words on pages could.

"There was a failure of planning, implementation, and management throughout the entire program," auditor general Bill Holland said.

Sen. Jason Barickman, the commission's Republican co-chairman, called the NRI a "shameless, useless waste of taxpayer dollars." He and his co-chairman, Rep. Frank Mautino, said the commission's goal is to figure out what went wrong and fix it.

"Every year, this commission meets," Barickman said. "Our recommendations are new laws to stop bad government from happening."

Barickman said many of the questions about how the program went wrong were still unanswered. The executive director of the CJIA did not know much about the original program, which he was not directly involved in. Instead, he stressed the grant programs the CJIA runs might be similar, but they were better-managed.

Barickman said he wants to bring in people directly involved with the program's operation. He's planning to continue the hearings in June.

Interest in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative isn't limited to just the legislature. The Cook County State's Attorney and federal prosecutors are also investigating the program. Hearing Focuses on Troubled Quinn Anti-Violence Program

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