Legislation to clarify tollway chairman's duties passes Senate

State senators amended a law governing the Illinois tollway on Wednesday to clarify top executives' roles, after concerns about a power struggle and overreach by the chairman.

The legislation, which still requires passage by the House, removed language giving a chairman supervisory authority over "all powers, duties, obligations and functions" at the agency.

The intent is to define responsibilities and allow the executive director to run day-to-day operations at the $1.5 billion agency.

The action results from turbulence in 2021, when board directors voted to delegate their authority to reorganize the agency's administrative offices and departments to former Chairman Will Evans.

Subsequently, Evans revised the chain of command so that the chief financial officer reported to him as well as Executive Director José Alvarez. He had other executives report to the CFO and fired two top administrators recruited by Alvarez.

In a December Senate hearing, Evans testified that state law and tollway bylaws obligate him to act as both chairman and executive director.

The tollway act revisions also state that the governor is responsible for appointing the tollway executive director with consent of the Senate.

In theory, the tollway board hires the executive director. But board members are appointed by the governor, so candidates are typically steered by the executive branch..

On Feb. 18, Evans retired as chairman, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed banking executive Dorothy Abreu to replace him.

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