CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Tollway officials are defending the awarding of contracts to firms with political connections or ties to Tollway employees.

The deals being examined included a $6.6 million, five-year public relations subcontract awarded last year to a Republican lawmaker’s wife.

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Morreale Communications is owned by Kim Morreale, who is married to state Rep. Michael McAuliffe of Chicago.

Tollway Executive Director Liz Gorman on Tuesday told the state Senate Transportation Committee all contracts were awarded within the law and followed rules for transparency.

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Former Democratic state Sen. Bill Morris, a former Tollway board member told the committee board members were not doing their jobs in properly reviewing contracts and should resign.

Morris is a frequent critic of the current board, appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Democratic Sen. David Koehler of Peoria said state officials should avoid the perception of a conflict.

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