Replace Shirley Madigan on the Illinois Arts Council

960x0The Illinois Arts Council – led by the matriarch of the most powerful political family in Illinois – conferred grants without official meetings, ignored rampant conflicts of interest, and funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to asset-rich organizations – including media outlets – which don’t need public money.

Although Michael Madigan has served as the Illinois House Speaker for 34 years, interrupted for just two years in the 1990s, his wife, Shirley Madigan, has clinched a position on the Illinois Arts Council since 1976. She has served as the chair of the council since 1983.

Governor Bruce Rauner must move immediately to end Shirley Madigan’s tenure on the Illinois Arts Council. Rauner has an historic opportunity to appoint thirteen fresh faces and take a reform majority on this important council of twenty-one. Two weeks ago, Shirley Madigan’s latest term expired alongside twelve other board members.

Over the past three years, Shirley Madigan’s Arts Council rarely met. Instead of holding tri-annual board meetings – as they’ve pledged to do – the council never met during the entire fiscal year of 2016. Still, without the sunshine of a public meeting, the council paid-out grants, salaries, and operational expenses. Only later did the board ratify the payments.

How does a governmental body confer and distribute millions of dollars in federal and state funding over a two-year period without an official meeting? The Edgar County Watchdogs sued the Illinois Arts Council for violations of the Freedom of Information Act and found no official meetings from August 2014 until October 2016.

Conflicts of interest between board members and affiliated organizations are rampant at the Arts Council. In fiscal year 2015 alone, board members disclosed conflicts causing 40 vote ‘abstentions.’ Loyola University – where Shirley Madigan received her master’s degree – has received $95,100 in grants since 2012. Henry Godinez is the resident artistic associate at the Goodman Theater, and Goodman received $165,650 since 2012.

One of the most conflicted board members is Christina Gidwitz, the wife of prominent Republican scion Ron Gidwitz. Since 2014, Ms. Gidwitz’s self-declared conflicts include The Field Museum of Natural History (they endowed the Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds), Loyola University (they’re big donors), and the Lyric Opera (Ron serves as a director). These entities received $503,000 in Arts Council grants since 2012.

The Illinois Arts Council’s grants are not only made in the dark and riddled with conflicts, but they’re funding some of the richest arts organizations. Largely, taxpayer funding wasn’t awarded to ‘starving artists,’ but to well-connected entities with political clout.

In the past five years, Shirley Madigan’s Arts Council awarded $32.8 million in grants. Our OpenTheBooks.com findings reveal 37 cents on every $1 in grants flowed to just 20 well-heeled, asset-rich organizations. In total, these 20 rich organizations received $12.1 million despite controlling financial assets of at least $3.1 billion. None of these entities can argue they needed taxpayer funding.

Seven of the top ten largest grant recipients were television and radio station nonprofits – not traditional arts groups. It’s easy to see that the Madigans want to curry political favor with radio and television media – $7.3 million to 21 stations buys a lot of favorable coverage.

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Consider the details:

  • Since 2012, WTTW Communications won funding of $2.5 million and was the largest recipient of Illinois Arts Council funding despite $50 million in revenue and $72 million in financial assets.
  • WBEZ Chicago Public Media – a national public radio affiliate – received nearly $800,000 despite $57.2 million in assets.
  • WILL – an AM/FM and television partnership between the University of Illinois, Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio based in Urbana – received $990,865 despite annual revenues of $10 million.
  • WSIU in Carbondale received $845,822 despite annual revenues of $4 million.

Outside of radio and television funding, the Illinois Arts Council gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the richest arts organizations despite their impressive balance sheets. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra nearly $300,000 while controlling assets of $528.7 million. The Art Institute of Chicago received nearly $235,000 notwithstanding its $1.5 billion asset base. The University of Chicago received $114,100 in funding despite assets totaling $12 billion.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – Michael and Shirley’s daughter – vowed to the Chicago Tribune editorial board in 2002, “It’s time that Illinois’ highest legal official takes an active, hands-on role in cleaning up government. And I will not let them down.” Madigan said she’d even prosecute her father, if necessary.

Instead, maybe Attorney General Madigan should investigate her mother.

Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the Founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com – a national transparency organization with a database of 4 billion federal, state and local expenditures.

When referencing this piece, please use the following citation: ‘Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, as published at Forbes.’

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Edgar Co. (ECWd) –

May 9th, 2016, the Edgar County Watchdogs, filed suit against the Illinois Arts Council Agency for allegedly violating the Freedom Of Information Act.  This state agency is under the leadership of Shirley Madigan, who is listed as their Chair on the state web-site regarding appointments to that agency, found here, and has reportedly been on their Board since 1976.

A simple request for public records was sent to the IACA, requesting such things as copies of reimbursements for their board members and the names and compensation of all their employees. The IACA failed to answer the request within the mandated time-frame to answer FOIAs, and even when it did answer, did not provide the requested information.

The case was filed in Edgar County Circuit Court and is being handled by Liberty Justice Center. 

“All too often, government bodies in Illinois show contempt for the citizens they’re supposed to serve by disregarding their legal duties under the Freedom of Information Act. That’s what Shirley Madigan and the Illinois Arts Agency Council did when the Edgar County Watchdogs made a simple request for records showing how the agency is using taxpayers’ money. We’ve brought this lawsuit to make the agency follow the law and bring this information to light.” James McQuaid – Liberty Justice Center.

Supporting documents:
Shirley Madigan’s Statements of Economic Interest (here).
Illinois Arts Council Agency FOIA Response 1 (here).
Partially redacted FOIA response (here).
Illinois Arts Council August 2014 Meeting Minutes (here).

A full copy of the complaint can be found below.

5 replies »

  1. Just put a couple puppets in the office and you will save a lot of money and get the same results. Seems like a nice cozy family affair to me.

  2. I had a FOIA into Jesse White a few years back where there were obvious back dated docs after the deadlines were missed. Lisa Madigans office spent more time covering up the crime than investigating. It would be funny if fiction, but it’s not.

    • because Mafias need a hierarchy – it is a family business, I have heard.

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      Court rules in favor of Madigan: Attorney general doesn’t have to defend state against wrongful workers’ compensation claimsA Sangamon County judge’s ruling defending Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s failure to defend the state against wrongful workers’ compensation claims could cost the state.

      A Sangamon County circuit court judge ruled May 13 against Gov. Bruce Rauner and in favor of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, despite the fact that Madigan has failed to perform some of the duties her role requires.

      The Illinois Department of Central Management Services, or CMS, filed the case Hoffman v. Madigan after Madigan refused to adequately defend the state against inappropriate workers’ compensation claims, despite the fact that state law unequivocally supports the state against the claims.

      As a state agency under the governor, CMS is statutorily tasked with representing the state’s Department of Human Services in workers’ compensation claims brought against the state. But CMS asserts that Madigan is not properly defending the state against claims made by home care workers called “personal assistants.”

      At the crux of the case are two particular workers’ compensation claims filed by Stephanie Yencer-Price, a personal assistant who sustained injuries while working in a private household in Sangamon County. Because she is employed by a private household as a personal assistant under the Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act, Yencer-Price claims she is a “state employee” and entitled to workers’ compensation from the state – rather than from her private employer – for the injuries she allegedly sustained while working for her private employer.

      But both state law and court precedent make clear that personal assistants are not “state employees” and therefore are not entitled to workers’ compensation from the state.

      For example, state law provides that the state “shall not be considered to be the employer” of a personal assistant for any purposes not specifically enumerated – and significantly, workers’ compensation is not listed. To the contrary, the law explicitly states that a personal assistant will be considered an employee of the state “solely” for purposes of coverage under the state’s collective bargaining statute.

      On the other hand, state law provides that “the customer” of the personal assistant – i.e., the private household – “is responsible for controlling all aspects of the employment relationship” between the private household and the personal assistant. In fact, state law requires a contract between every “customer” and personal assistant. In that contract, the personal assistant must acknowledge that the Department of Human Services maintains that the customer, and not the state, is the “employer” for purposes of workers’ compensation claims.

      Simply put, state law makes clear it is Yencer-Price’s private employer, and not the state, who is responsible for any injuries she sustained while working for that private employer.

      That conclusion is supported by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn. In that case, the court held that personal assistants are considered state employees for one purpose only: collective bargaining over wages. Personal assistants are private employees for all other purposes.

      In addition, at least two state court decisions have held that there is no employer/employee relationship between the state and personal assistants.

      But in claims brought by personal assistants such as Yencer-Price, Madigan has refused to present this overwhelming legal evidence demonstrating there is no employer/employee relationship between the state of Illinois and personal assistants.

      Based on Madigan’s failure to assert a “meritorious defense” against such claims, CMS filed the present case asking the court to enjoin Madigan from representing the state in workers’ compensation claims involving personal assistants. CMS also asked the court to allow for the appointment of a special assistant attorney general in such situations.

      On May 13 the court ignored the overwhelming evidence supporting CMS, and instead dismissed the case altogether. CMS is sure to appeal this decision.

      The impact of this case is substantial. Hundreds of workers’ compensation claims have been filed on behalf of personal assistants in the state. When the state is not adequately defended from such claims, millions of taxpayer dollars improperly flow from the state to individuals who are not employees of the state. The state simply cannot afford to lose that money.

      With the law clearly stacked against Madigan, and in light of the state’s precarious financial situation, the question remains as to why she failed to adequately defend the state against inappropriate workers’ compensation claims in the first place. The answer: politics. Reportedly, before Rauner was in office, it was the attorney general’s position that her office would dispute all such claims because personal assistants are not employees of the state.

      But in Illinois, the Madigan family agenda is more important than the law or protecting the state’s taxpayers.

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