Illinois lawmakers are holding a two days of hearings into Governor Pat Quinn's 2010 anti-violence program.
The hearings before the bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission were delayed months ago at the request of federal prosecutors looking at the possibility of criminal wrongdoing in the Governor's troubled anti-crime grant. But the panel chairman say the federal authorities have now given the green light to proceed.
Barbara Shaw, former director of the Illinois Violence Protection Authority, was the first witness to testify today.
Shaw defended the Governor's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).
"There are many positive stories about NRI that have not been heard," Shaw told the commission. "The focus has been on the relatively few organizations that had problems.”
Republicans have criticized the $54.5 million NRI grant, disbursed to nearly 200 community service organizations and individuals in 2010. The GOP says the timing for the grant was suspicious, just a month before Governor Quinn narrowly defeated Republican Bill Brady in the 2010 election.
Republicans have likened it to a political slush fund with disbursements to questionable and politically connected entities in some cases. Many questions are being asked about grant money being paid to the husband of Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, among others.
"There is no question that not all the ideas worked equally well in all communities, or that all agencies were as successful as most," Shaw testified. "But the approach was sound and resulted in jobs for thousands of people in economically distressed communities, much needed services that reached thousands of youth and parents, and highly productive levels of community coordination."