State Senate committee expected to review tollway reorganization

State senators are expected to hold a hearing in December to look into a reorganization at the Illinois tollway that is prompting questions about who's in charge at the agency.

The tollway board recently voted to give Chairman Will Evans authority to reorganize departments and administrators' duties.

As a result, the agency's chief financial officer now reports to Evans as well as Executive Director Jose Alvarez. In addition, the chief procurement and compliance officer and the head of the information technology department were switched to report to the chief financial officer, not Alvarez.

The shuffling has some lawmakers concerned about a disconnect between Evans and Alvarez, who both began at the tollway in 2019 under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's new administration.

"There seems to be a paradigm shift and those changes are taking place behind closed doors," said Sen. Laura Murphy, a Democrat from Des Plaines. "It's very problematic, and I hope the governor puts a stop to it. I'm not pointing fingers, but if the CEO or the chairman is not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we need to know what the problem is."

Evans had explained the new structure to employees in an email, stating that "this change will directly align procurement functions with financial management which will facilitate more comprehensive control and management of tollway spending."

It will "enhance contract compliance, and improve procurement efficiency," Evans wrote.

Also in October, directors voted it was in the "best interests" of the tollway for the board to "delegate its authority to create or reorganize the tollway's administrative offices and departments, and prescribe the duties thereof" to the chairman.

"These are significant tax dollars that this body is responsible for," said Republican Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles. "I believe it's vitally important that the executive director and board chairman in orchestration with the board be on the same page with regards to how they conduct their business."

State Rep. Fred Crespo added that "the key thing that should concern us is the Move Illinois infrastructure program,"

"If drama curtails or slows it down, that to me is the biggest problem," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said. "If there is a power struggle we need to put a stop to it."

Asked about the reorganization earlier, tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said, "recent changes were not related to any particular issue. As with any good organization, continual improvement of governance and internal controls is an imperative part of the ongoing building of the organization."

The senate hearing is expected to take place Dec. 7.

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