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Full text for Articles for Today, Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 2 Articles


Group questions contract for firm that removed toilets for Pritzker
Wednesday, June 3, 2020  |   Article  |   By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square
Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Governor (44) , Taxes, property (87)

(The Center Square) – A political action group is raising questions over the selection of a firm for a multi-million-dollar contract in Illinois.

Illinois Rising Action said Chicago-based Bulley & Andrews scored a taxpayer-funded, firm-fixed contract worth nearly $9 million to convert the former WestLake Hospital in Melrose Park into an acute-care facility for COVID-19. The facility has not been used during the pandemic.

The contracts were issued as part of a $1.7 billion effort spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which Bulley & Andrews had not worked with since the 1940s, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Illinois Rising Action Executive Director Kayleen Carlson said the governor is familiar with Bully & Andrews.

“This is a contractor who has done personal work for Gov. Pritzker and currently is doing private work for the governor,” Carlson said. “Here in Illinois this is not something that we haven’t seen before. This is kind of politics as usual.”

Carlson pointed to reports that Bulley & Andrews was working across the border on Pritzker’s farm in Wisconsin.

“This reeks of what we’ve seen time and time again and what the people of Illinois are sick and tired of seeing from their leaders in Springfield,” Carlson said.

A request for comment from the governor’s office and Bulley & Andrews went unanswered.

In a report leaked while Pritzker was running for governor, Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard said Pritzker and his wife, Mary Katherine, who goes by MK, saved $331,432 in taxes by removing toilets and kitchen fixtures from the house they bought next door to the Gold Coast mansion they live in.

The report, first obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, included copies of emails from MK spelling out orders to Bulley & Andrews.

“MK is now getting back into the task of cleaning up 1431 N. Astor,” an email from Bulley & Andrews to a plumbing contractor said. “She is going to have the house reassessed as an uninhabitable structure. To do this, she would like to have us pull all toilets and cap all toilet lines in the house. Then, after the assessment, she would like us to put the first floor toilet back in and have this as the one functioning bathroom in the place.”

After the report was leaked, Pritzker paid the $330,000 back to Cook County, but said he had followed all the rules when he got the tax break.

Illinois Attorney General calling businesses about social distancing violations
Wednesday, June 3, 2020  |   Column  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Attorney General (6) , Business (10) , Governor (44) , Health (49)

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Attorney General’s office has responded to more than 2,000 calls during the pandemic it said were focused on things such social distancing violations, but a lawyer representing businesses challenging the governor’s executive orders said that goes too far.

Attorney Thomas DeVore, who represents businesses and individuals in counties across the state suing the governor, said one of his clients told him she got a call that put her on edge.

“She told me what the questions were, it was almost like an inquisition or an investigation of sorts, and when I looked up the name of the attorney that she said called her it was in fact an assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois,” DeVore said. “So, I was a little taken aback by that.”

A spokesperson for Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office confirmed it had responded to more than 2,000 calls about things including businesses not following social distancing guidelines.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Attorney General’s office has received communications from thousands of Illinois residents on issues ranging from businesses potentially engaging in unfair business practices during this crisis, to businesses not following social distancing guidelines or taking adequate steps to protect employees,” the state said. “Staff and attorneys from our office are working diligently to follow up on the thousands of complaints we have received.”

DeVore said that’s not the Attorney General’s job.

“The Attorney General should have said ‘you know what, call your local health department, call the state health department, call the emergency management agencies and let them look into this stuff,’ ” DeVore said.

The Attorney General is defending the governor in the lawsuits DeVore has brought forward challenging Pritzker's consecutive stay-at-home orders.

Despite the state being in Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's five-phase reopening plan, DeVore said his cases are still important.

“Because Illinoisans have succeeded in moving beyond staying home as our primary goal, this brings to an end Illinois’ stay-at-home executive order,” Pritzker said last week.

He issued a new executive order amid the COVID-19 pandemic that reshapes how certain businesses must operate in order to open back up to the public.

DeVore said those lawsuits are more important now than ever, despite a new executive order being issued with modified restrictions.

“Just because we have the easing of the restrictions ... doesn’t take away from the fact that these executive orders never had any force and effect of law for the first place,” DeVore said. “And so there needs to be a ruling by the court that says under no uncertain circumstances did the governor ever have the power to shutter businesses and restrict people’s freedoms. He never had it.”

Opponents of the governor’s orders have said the governor exceeded his 30-day powers by issuing consecutive orders based on the same emergency month after month since March. Pritzker has said he has followed state law.

DeVore said rulings on the governor’s authority are needed to curb possible abuses during future disasters or pandemics.

“The message needs to be sent for the next coronavirus … whatever the issue may be, the disaster may be, or the emergency may be, when we have the next one, that we don’t have to go through this again because, again, our state, our country can not handle this type of economic catastrophe each and every time we have an issue to deal with,” DeVore said.