Wage theft case has Republicans’ questions unanswered from Pritzker, Democrats

(The Center Square) – Illinois statehouse Republicans are waiting for answers from the state’s top Democrats over questions about a story involving alleged wage theft, forgery and a last-minute change to state law.

Former Illinois State Police Merit Board CFO Jenny Thornley, who did campaign work for Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2018, was charged in Sangamon County last month with stealing up to $100,000 in false overtime. It’s alleged she forged the signature of the agency’s executive director, Jack Garcia.

During Garcia’s investigation of Thornley, Republicans say Thornley filed a sex harassment complaint against Garcia, which was later determined to be unfounded.

“We are specifically concerned about the direct communication between the accused in the indictment, Ms. Thornley, the Illinois State Police Merit Board and the Governor’s Office during the investigation led by Executive Director Jack Garcia,” an Oct. 1 letter Republicans sent the governor, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, says.

State Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said it doesn’t stop there.

“We also know that the governor’s administration pushed for a clause in the criminal justice package passed in January to terminate that same executive director’s employment,” Curran said during an unrelated news conference. “This is on it’s face retaliation.”

The Republican’s letter to the top Democrats highlights the bill language of concern in Public Act 101-652 that wasn’t in previous versions of the measure throughout early January.

“In order to avoid actual conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts of interest, no employee, contractor, clerical or technical staff shall be a retired or former employee of the Illinois State Police,” the GOP letter highlights from Public Act 101-652.

That part of the law would be effective Jan. 1, 2022, effectively terminating Garcia, who is the first executive director for the agency with Illinois State Police experience, Republicans said.

“Did anyone in [the Pritzker] administration know about Executive Director Garcia’s investigation [of Thornley] and why they didn’t pull back in seeking to terminate him through legislation,” Curran asked.

Among other questions Republicans laid out in their letter was who decided to add the provision to the bill and why.

“Why would this language be added in the dead of night to force an appointee who had successfully rooted out corruption in his organization and had been cleared of any wrongdoing out of his position?,” the letter asks. “What communication on this language occurred prior to its addition? What role did the Governor’s Office have in this addition, and were communications with Ms. Thornley discussed?”

“Will the Governor’s Office, Office of the Senate President and Office of the Speaker of the House provide communications related to this addition to the press and their legislative colleges to ensure we understand the reason for this inclusion?, the letter asks.

Curran said they have to get a response from the governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President.

Spokespersons for those offices didn’t return messages from The Center Square seeking comment.

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