I’m sure it will be a surprise to JB but by pure coincidence, the government spent $ 9 million dollars to work on facilities that never opened. I paraphrase our last (of several) federally convicted felon Illinois Governor, “This is fucking golden.” I hope they have a cell big enough.
Illinois politicians have no shame. Long known that there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature. Still known as “the combine”. Just a big pile of corrupt shit. Many hope JB ends up as our third of last four governors in the federal pen.
Is it just a coincidence the contractor involved in Pritzker’s private construction projects got coronavirus contracts?
A detail tucked in a Fox 32 investigative report about Illinois contractors trekking across the border to build a new mansion at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Wisconsin horse farm raised the eyebrow of somebody who knows how deals get done in America’s most corrupt state.
The “dwelling contractor” listed on Wisconsin building permits, Bulley & Andrews, is the same company caught up in the alleged “scheme to defraud” Cook County taxpayers by removing toilets from one of Pritzker’s Gold Coast mansions. The toilet scheme is still being investigated by the feds.
In April, Bulley & Andrews scored a taxpayer funded firm-fixed-price contract worth nearly $9 million to convert the former WestLake Hospital in Melrose Park into a COVID-19 acute-care site. The contractor also worked as a subcontractor doing similar work at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Both jobs got done, but neither site opened
The contracts were issued as part of a $1.7 billion effort spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which Bulley & Andrews hadn’t worked with since 1944. A Courthouse News investigation raised concerns that much of the work had been “awarded to contractors without transparency.”
Pritzker’s administration didn’t respond to a request for an interview about the state’s role coordinating the work on the alternate COVID-19 treatment sites with the federal government.
So, I didn’t get the chance to ask: Is it just a coincidence the contractor involved in construction projects (and toilet removals) at Pritzker’s mansions scored the lucrative work tied to the governor’s coronavirus response?
Sure, I could have snuck a question in at Pritzker’s daily televised pandemic updates, filed a series of Freedom of Information requests, appealed the administration’s almost certain denial and tried to convince the boss to pony up for an expensive legal fight in the name of “gotcha” journalism.
But really, that’s a waste of time. During the pandemic, I’ve learned from experience that the Pritzker administration dodges questions, ignores interview requests and blocks access to public information with vigor. The rest is details.
That’s why I wasn’t shocked over the holiday weekend when Pritzker put out a public statement disavowing a provision tucked in “Restore Illinois” legislation that would have limited access to public information.
Simple acts of reporting made it clear to me that the governor’s administration doesn’t need any help or extra time keeping secrets from the public.
Around the time we first learned African-Americans were the hardest hit by the pandemic, the state didn’t just deny my request for coronavirus death demographics.
An Illinois Department of Public Health department lawyer called to warn me that possession of data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Officer (which I attached to my request as an example of the demographic information I was seeking) violated federal laws.
“You better call a lawyer,” the state lawyer yelled.
In April, my FOIA request for personal protective equipment invoices and an accounting of the state’s pre-pandemic PPE stockpile (and before Pritzker started blaming President Trump for a shortage) got denied like I was asking for wartime secrets. I asked for the documents because a public health department insider told me the state hadn’t replenished stockpiles in 2019.
The public health department’s denial cited provisions in state law prohibiting the release of “vulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies or plans that are designed to identify, prevent, or respond to potential attacks upon a community’s population or systems, facilities, or installations, the destruction or contamination of which would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community,” and a bunch of other things that I did not ask for.
All I wanted to know was what the state’s stockpile looked like before the governor put taxpayers on the hook for those secretly chartered flights to an overpriced PPE shopping trip in China while nurses shared masks as they treated early COVID-19 patients.
The administration could easily have answered those straight forward questions over the phone.
But the coronavirus crisis has taught us that upfront honesty isn’t how Pritzker governs.
It’s not the way big money deals always get done in Illinois, either.