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Pritzker’s Dept. of Agriculture director out following email scandal

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. JB Pritzker's cabinet member, the state's agriculture director has resigned— it's the first fall-out from a growing email scandal with links to powerful House Speaker Madigan.

The e-mail, which references a rape in Champaign, is now in the hands of the Champaign County State’s Attorney and on Monday, Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan, one person who was forwarded the email, explained what he did when he saw it.

A statement released by Pritzker’s office said the governor sought and accepted Sullivan’s resignation this weekend.

The e-mail, first reported by WBEZ, has set off a firestorm. 

In 2012, powerful Springfield lobbyist and friend of House Speaker Madigan, Michael McClain, urged aides to then-Gov.  Pat Quinn to avoid firing a worker who had “kept his mouth shut” about a rape and ghost payrolling.

Sullivan sent news organization a statement saying that 2012 was a stressful time for him — he was preparing for cancer surgery then.

“Governor Pritzker’s General Counsel notified me that an August 2012 email…referenced my name as state senator…That information led me to conduct a review of my own personal emails from that same period of time…I simply did not read the entire forwarded email. Had I real the email thoroughly, my reaction would have been disgust and I would have immediately notified proper authorities.”

The statement from Pritzker’s office said in part: 

“The Governor requested the Director’s resignation because he is disturbed that then Senator Sullivan became aware of the existence of the July 31, 2012 email contemporaneously and did not handle it appropriately, including not alerting the inspector general or other authorities.”

"It’s an attempt to use power and clout in this case of Mike Madigan and his friends to try and affect the outcome of government employment," Dick Simpson, political analyst, said. 

The rape mentioned in the email may be referring to a case of child sexual abuse by an inmate out on early release, the Chicago Tribune reported this weekend.

Quinn used early release as a way to cut the budget. but the practice came under fire when early release inmates went on to commit violent crimes.

The Tribune source identified the case of Scott Thompson, who was released early and then convicted of sex abuse, as possibly the case mentioned in the email. The email may be part of a wider federal probe into corruption in Illinois government.

"We’re about to see the same kind of things we saw with Rod Blagojevich. There’s going to be major scandal. There’s going to be in this case a number of people what we called under Blagojevich a criminal conspiracy," Simpson said.

The Champaign County State’s Attorney is working with state and federal law enforcement to investigate what was said in the email.

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