Gorman's out at the tollway as new board moves in
There's more churn at the Illinois tollway with the executive director exiting as Gov. J.B. Pritzker's team assumes control.
"Executive Director Liz Gorman is no longer employed by the Illinois tollway," new Chairman Will Evans wrote in a memo to staff Friday.
Gorman's departure is not a huge surprise in that governors, who appoint the board, typically put their own stamp on the agency. Pritzker, a Democrat, on Feb. 28 selected new board directors. What was unusual is that he also signed a law passed by the General Assembly in January ousting the former board chosen by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the wake of concerns about cronyism in hiring and contracts. Usually, governors let tollway directors finish out their terms.
"Our new leadership will uphold the highest ethical standards, deliver the value to taxpayers and serve Illinoisans in every corner of our state," Pritzker said in February.
Gorman, a former Cook County commissioner and influential south suburban Republican, took over 13 months ago following the surprise resignation of former Executive Director Greg Bedalov. Her salary drew criticism from lawmakers. Gorman was paid $215,000 a year, $29,000 more than Bedalov, who had a problematic relationship with former Chairman Robert Schillerstrom.
Evans said he had assigned Chief Operating Officer Kevin Artl to take over as acting executive director in the interim.
"I look forward to our first meeting with the new board of directors next week," Evans wrote.
The Illinois Senate held a hearing in July into procurement irregularities at the tollway after the Daily Herald reported on contracts or hiring involving politically connected individuals or relatives of officials.
These included the tollway board awarding a $157 million contract to a company that employed the adult children of executives, recruiting GOP insiders for high-paying positions, approving a $6 million contract with a politically connected PR firm, spending thousands of dollars to send staff members to banquets where tollway leaders were speakers, and more.
Tollway officials said the agency operates ethically and follows state law.
The tollway has nine directors plus the Illinois Department of Transportation secretary and governor as ex officio members.
The directors, who are paid about $31,000 a year, are Democrats and Republicans with up to five representing the political party of the governor.