Monday, August 24, 2009
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Report: Politics kept pollution cases from Illinois AG

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[August 24, 2009]  CHICAGO -- Dozens of criminal cases against polluters were not pursued because former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration would not refer cases to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, according to a published report Sunday.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has not sent a criminal case to Madigan's office for two years, according to a Chicago Tribune story, which cited interviews, state records and memos. By contrast, in 2003, the IEPA sent nearly 30 cases to the attorney general's office.

The report said members of the ousted governor's administration refused to work with Madigan's office due to political feuding.

IEPA director Doug Scott, who was appointed by Blagojevich in 2005 and kept in the position by Gov. Pat Quinn, acknowledged the lack of criminal complaints.

"There were some issues between us and the attorney general, and that skewed those numbers," Scott said.


But he said many cases have been improved without formal enforcement action with the attorney general's office, saying his agency is required to conduct informal negotiations with polluters.

Through a spokeswoman, Madigan said Sunday the lack of referrals made it difficult for her office to "protect public health and the environment."

"We need an IEPA that is diligent and proactive and works with us to fully enforce the law," she said. "Unfortunately, for the last several years, IEPA hit a record low in the number of environmental enforcement cases that the agency referred to us for prosecution, including referring zero cases involving criminal violations of the law."

A message left for a Blagojevich publicist Sunday was not immediately returned.

Blagojevich, who was arrested Dec. 9, faces federal charges, including allegations he schemed to profit from President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and tried to extort campaign money from companies seeking state business. He has denied any wrongdoing related to the charges.

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Quinn became governor in January after Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office.

On Sunday, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes called on Quinn to fire the IEPA director in light of the Tribune report.

Hynes, who is making a bid for governor, said the story illustrates "political feuds that forestalled environmental damage investigations."

In a statement, Hynes said the Tribune report "reminds us all that the Blagojevich culture of politically driven decisions still has a foothold in Pat Quinn's administration, and Illinois families are the clear victim."

Quinn spokeswoman Marlena Jentz said Quinn has no plans to fire Scott.

At a Sunday news conference on drinking water contamination legislation, Quinn, who has indicated he will run for a full term, praised Scott, saying the director has done an "outstanding job."

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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