(CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn says he takes responsibility for a program that’s now under investigation, but he insists he quickly took steps to correct it.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot sat down with the governor Friday, a day after news broke that the feds were looking into the now-defunct Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
“I believe in accountability. I think it’s the most important thing you can do in government. There’s a program that wasn’t going in the right direction. In 2012, I shut it down,” Quinn says.
NRI is now under investigation for how $55 million was spent.
Quinn said the program sprang from a young man’s 2010 shooting death.
“It was a program that was designed to protect the public safety and violence-plagued neighborhoods and to provide jobs for young people, mentoring,” the governor says.
Spending records CBS 2 obtained tell a different story. In Maywood, where murders dropped from a high of 10 in 2008 to two in 2009, Quinn’s program gave the Village of Maywood millions. In 2010, the Democratic machine in Maywood cranked out more votes for Quinn in 2010 than for Rod Blagojevich both times he won the governor’s race.
Quinn OK’d millions to Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, based in Dolton, to dole out funds to worthy groups. A document CBS 2 obtained shows politicians ruled the advisory board.
It included three state representatives, two state senators and Frank Zuccarelli, the powerful supervisor of Thornton Township.
“Any money distributed in this program came well after the election in November of 2010. No money was distributed until after the election,” Quinn said.
Asked how the incumbent plans to move beyond the issue during the campaign, Quinn responded: “I think the test of character in a campaign, or if you’re governor, is what you do when something isn’t going right. Do you try and cover it up? No.”
That character may be tested by details beginning to surface. At least two politicians’ spouses received six-figure salaries just to administer the Quinn anti-violence program.
Quinn’s Republican opponent for governor, Bruce Rauner, has already seized upon the investigation.
“This is a sad event that the people of Illinois have seen too many times. The people deserve better than to have yet another governor under federal investigation,” Rauner said Thursday.
State Sen. Matt Murphy raised questions about oversight.
“This was targeted as an anti-violence program and yet the money wasn’t spent in the most violent neighborhoods,” he says.