His job was all about making the roads safer and preventing fatalities.
But former Illinois Department of Transportation public safety director Michael Stout lied to investigators and misused his authority in order to score exclusive passes to NASCAR races he distributed to non-employees, according to an updated report from the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General issued Thursday.
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Stout resigned in November, saying he had done nothing wrong. Contacted Thursday, he said a Sangamon County grand jury that reviewed the case did not indict him.
But the report concluded he should be fired.
"Mr. Stout used his position to look like a 'big shot,'" investigators said.
The probe centered on NASCAR events held in July 2009 and 2010 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. IDOT has a presence at the event to promote safety campaigns.
In emails to an IDOT vendor, hired by the state as an event organizer and to help with sports outreach, Stout requested numerous exclusive NASCAR passes. The passes allowed access to the track, pit lane and garages where the drivers are.
"They would sell for exponentially more than the most expensive race ticket," an unnamed Speedway executive quoted in the report said. The passes were valued at $315.
Stout awarded some of the passes to friends and acquaintances, investigators said.
He initially denied any misconduct and said the whole purpose of the passes was for conducting IDOT business. When confronted with emails, Stout explained that he thought one nonemployee "would enjoy having a hot pass," and that one individual who previously worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections "deserved a hot pass."
He also called it a management decision to reward "good employees" by allowing them to attend the NASCAR event.
Investigators concluded last year Stout was paid for about 100 hours of work he didn't perform, misused his state email account and vehicle and exceeded his authority by requesting the passes.
Stout wrote the executive inspector general disputing the findings.
"I disagree with the findings and have evidence in my position that shows the contrary," Stout wrote. "But I have decided not to release the evidence which would expose state employees and citizens unnecessarily."
He added that his final performance review rated him as "outstanding" and said he had "elevated the profile of traffic safety throughout the entire state."