Governor signs bill requiring public notice of tollway contracts

 
Daily Herald report

A new law requires the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to publicize information about contracts over $100,000 at least two business days before tollway board meetings.

"This will better enable Illinoisans to have adequate advance notice when large sums of tollway user-fee dollars are being considered for allocation toward transportation projects," said Gov. Bruce Rauner, who signed the legislation, SB 2291, on Tuesday.

The Daily Herald has reported on tollway contracts involving firms that have political ties to Republicans or connections with tollway executives. The tollway board is appointed by Rauner.

The agency denies any patronage and said it follows state regulations on contracts.

"The Illinois tollway holds itself to a high level of transparency and welcomes any opportunity to further raise that standard," tollway Executive Director Liz Gorman said of the requirement.

The tollway was called before the state Senate last month for a hearing, during which lawmakers questioned a $6.6 million subcontract with Morreale Communications that piggybacked onto a larger contract with engineering consultants WSP Inc. Morreale Communications' CEO, Kim Morreale, is married to Republican state Rep. Michael McAuliffe of Chicago.

Questions also focused on a $157 million contract with Omega and Associates for Tri-State Tollway management services in November. Omega employs a daughter of tollway Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and a son of Chief Engineer Paul Kovacs, and it has contributed to two board members' charities.

The new law requires information about contracts, with internet links to detailed information, be included on meeting agendas posted at illinoistollway.com and at the tollway's headquarters in Downers Grove.

"Agencies such as the Toll Highway Authority must be fully transparent with their operations so that those who fund them can see how their money is being spent," said Republican state Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard, lead House sponsor of the bill.

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