Monday, April 17, 2006

Subpoenas be damned — pay to play must go on

The Blagojevich administration doesn't seem to be deterred by subpoenas or the coverage that results from those subpoenas.

Back in October 2004, various newspapers reported that the feds subpoenaed records related to some $300,000 in contracts given to Ron Picur, a University of Chicago professor who used to work with Blagojevich budget chief John Filan at the Chicago accounting firm of PTW.

The Tribune previously disclosed that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed state and university records about Picur, who had received more than $324,000 in contracts from the budget office on budget matters, bond work and assistance to the Department of Transportation.

In an audit finding last week, the Democratic Auditor General strongly criticized contracts given to Picur by Filan's budget office. The audit says the contracts should have been competitively bid unless it could be demonstrated that they were legitimately unable to be done by other firms. Even then, the contracts had to be identified in advance as “sole source” and were not.

The Office awarded three contracts totaling $154,220 for budget advisory services without soliciting competitive bids for the services. The Office also failed to publish its notices of intent to enter into sole source contracts in the Illinois Procurement Bulletin.

Blagojevich's budget office, in the audit, gave pathetically lame excuses for describing Picur's work as unable to be done by other firms. Blago's budgeteers said the “the contracts in question are for highly technical specialized services in a wide variety of areas…” and apparently tried to sell the notion that only Picur could be “able to provide consultative services on an “on-call” basis throughout the fiscal year including weekends and holidays.” Yeah, nobody else in Illinois has a Blackberry.

The Bloomington Pantagraph's Kurt Erickson and Matt Adrian were skeptical about this one in their Sunday column.

We're guessing his high-priced expertise became known to the governor through Picur's former job as the comptroller for the City of Chicago in the mid-1980s. Or, maybe, Picur was showered with your tax dollars for his connections to the governor's budget chief, John Filan. The two of them worked together at the Chicago accounting and auditing firm of PTW.

However he received his largesse from the state, we want to make sure to remind the people who are paying him that a federal grand jury subpoenaed Picur's work, income and travel records as part of an ongoing investigation back in 2004.

If subpoenas won't stop them, the feds need to try something stronger: indictments.

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