Democrat State Senator latest to face federal charges in red light camera case
State Senator Emil Jones III, son of former Senate President Emil Jones Jr., is the latest in a long string of elected Democrats who have been charged with, or found guilty of, political wrongdoing. The Senator is charged with three bribery-related counts, including accepting a $5,000 bribe from red-light camera company SafeSpeed, which at one point had contracts in more than 20 Chicago suburbs and the City of Chicago. The cameras generate millions in revenue from motorists.
Sen. Jones III is accused of taking the bribe in exchange for limiting the scope of legislation for a red-light camera traffic study to only the City of Chicago. He also stands accused of asking for a lucrative job and additional payments for an unnamed associate, and of lying to the FBI. Sen. Jones III was arraigned in federal court on Friday, Sept. 23.
To date, the red-light camera federal investigation has ensnared more than a dozen elected officials, political operatives, and business professionals.
These latest federal charges are yet another stain on a General Assembly that has been plagued with federal charges against current and former Democrat members. Serving in the Senate or House is a privilege and should focus on serving people, not lining one’s own pockets.
Senate Republicans filed a robust package of anti-corruption bills this year, and I am a co-sponsor of every one of them. Every anti-corruption bill we filed was blocked by Senate Democrats, including legislation that would expand Illinois’ RICO law to include bribery, official misconduct, and legislative misconduct (currently only federal agents can investigate these crimes). The Senate Republicans’ ethics reform package can be viewed at https://www.ilsenategop.org/government_corruption.
State’s attorneys file lawsuits against SAFE-T Act
As opposition to the so-called SAFE-T Act continues to intensify, four Illinois State’s Attorneys have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the controversial law that is set to take effect across all 102 counties on January 1, 2023. As you may know, I have created a “Repeal the SAFE-T Act” petition, so Illinoisans can join me in demanding an immediate repeal of this bill. My goal is to repeal the bill now, and return to the table with all stakeholders present so we can write criminal justice reform that does not jeopardize public safety. You can sign my petition here.
Two of the state’s attorneys that filed suits are Republicans and two are Democrats. One of the lawsuits was filed by our McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally. In addition to Kenneally’s lawsuit, state’s attorneys from southwest suburban Will County, and Grundy and Kankakee Counties in central Illinois have filed lawsuits claiming the SAFE-T Act violates the Illinois Constitution in many ways.
The lawsuits claim the no cash bond element of the legislation violates bail provisions in the Illinois Constitution and the law fails to meet a constitutional requirement that laws be limited to a single subject. The suits also claim the Act violates the separation of powers section of the Illinois Constitution and violates the Constitution’s Victims’ Bill of Rights.
During a speech on Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) acknowledged he too had concerns over ambiguous sections of the bill, especially portions that deal with pre-trial detention standards and the level of discretion judges have to hold defendants in jail as they await trial.
$363 million verdict awarded in first Sterigenics cancer cluster trial
On September 19, a Cook County jury awarded a $363 million judgement to the first plaintiff who went to trial seeking damages from Willowbrook-based Sterigenics, its parent company, and corporate predecessor, for knowingly emitting lethal levels of ethylene oxide into the air from 1985-2019. In the ruling, jurors found that Sterigenics, a medical tool sterilization company, is responsible for the breast cancer developed by plaintiff Susan Kamuda, and the non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma developed by her child.
In an April 2021 audit issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, it was determined that the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation delayed communicating known health risks to community members who lived near the Sterigenics facility. The jury reached its verdict after a five-week trial and one day of deliberations. The Kamuda case was the first of 762 pending lawsuits against Sterigenics.
State Fair draws record crowds
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is reporting that a record number of people visited the Illinois State Fair this year. During the 11-day fair, an estimated 636,700 people entered the fairgrounds. It is the highest number of attendees since the fair began tracking attendance in 2014. Last year’s attendance was 472,390, and in 2020 the fair was canceled due to COVID-19.
The 2022 fair brought in about $6.4 million in revenue, with Grandstand revenues setting a new record of more than $2.3 million for the nine paid performers. The most successful Grandstand show this year was Brooks & Dunn, which drew a paid crowd of 10,142.
The negative audits of Pritzker agencies/boards keep coming
The state’s Legislative Audit Commission met on September 21, to discuss scathing audits of agencies and boards under the purview of Gov. JB Pritzker.
An audit of Pritzker’s Department of Corrections (DOC) found an extensive lack of proper record keeping that made it impossible to give a clear opinion on the Department’s financial statements, and a list of over 1,000 documents requested of the Department by the Auditor General for use in the audit that were never delivered or severely delayed. The DOC blamed both findings on staffing and COVID-19 challenges.
Similarly, an audit of the Governor’s Prison Review Board (PRB) also showed sloppy financial, contractual, property, and record keeping practices. Additionally, the audit found that the PRB, in conjunction with the DOC, failed to comply with the provisions of the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009. Specifically, the audit found the PRB and DOC failed to implement a required evidence-based programming system, did not provide mandated staff training, did not put a system in place to evaluate evidence-based practices, and did not file required annual reports. Because the Chair of the PRB did not attend the meeting, the Commission decided to continue their questioning of the PRB at their next meeting.
The Legislative Audit Commission is responsible for the oversight of the State Audit Program, review of the stewardship of public funds, and the monitoring action to correct weaknesses disclosed by the audits of state agencies. The membership consists of 12 legislators appointed by the General Assembly leadership and is equally apportioned between the two houses and political parties.